English 92, Period 6
10 May 2018
Is our technology taking us closer to the world of Big Brother?
It’s 2018. Our lives revolve around technology whether we like it or not. Everything from
our personal phones to the complexity of Nanotechnology, the majority of today’s civilization
cannot function without it. Just like in 1984, written by George Orwell, these technological
advances are invading our privacy more each and every day. Updates on phone applications
(apps) now ask for more permissions, such as having access to your: camera, microphone, and
location. Our every move is monitored through our personal devices, bringing us closer to the
world of Big Brother.
In Oceania, the fictional nation in the novel 1984, written by George Orwell, Big Brother,
a.ka. the government has ultimate power over all of its citizens, which we can clearly pick up at
the beginning of the story. Orwell writes, "In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down
between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving
flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people's windows.” Big Brother takes any kind of
privacy away from its citizens. Although our government doesn’t take such drastic measures,
they are still getting involved in our everyday lives. According the the Center of Democracy and
Technology, the National Security Agency (NSA) is recording the telephone metadata from
every single person in the U.S. Even if you aren’t doing anything inappropriate, the NSA
continues to work alongside cellular companies so that may have access any text message or
phone call at any time for any date. Worst of all, is that there have been reports of the NSA using
their power to track what activities you do when going out. This is why Peter Maass and Megha
Rajagopalan, authors of, That's no phone. That’s my Tracker, write about the misconception of
cellphones. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan get real when they say, “Cellular systems
constantly check and record the location of all phones on their networks – and this data is
particularly treasured by police departments and online advertisers”. Nearly all apps that I have
used ask for either permission to: my camera, my microphone, or my location. It’s become a
norm for all popular apps to know where their users are at all times, even if we’re not currently
using their services. They all hide behind the lie of using our information to “enhance” our
experience. But once you allow any of the permissions they want, they send your information,
such as your recent search history, to online advertisers. It’s really no puzzle getting a sense of
what each individual likes based on what they search on their phones. And if we do everything
but make phone calls on our phone, which is supposed to be it’s primary usage, then they might
as well be called trackers.
We might not be in the world of Big Brother yet, but we are certainly being watched
without knowing it. George Orwell uses Winston as an example of today’s world. Winston is
your average Joe and is loyal to to his party until he meets Julia. "Any sound that Winston made,
above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he
remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well
as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given
moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire
was guesswork (Orwell).” Now we don’t have telescreens like Big Brother in 1984, but we do
have cameras on our cellphones and computers which has led today’s culture to make jokes
relative to being watched by The Man, except it’s referenced as, “My FBI agent”. Yes. This is a
thing, it’s gone viral this year and it all started when Instagram’s usage of cookies made
themselves more noticeable. This happened with my prom dress. I searched for it and bought it
online, through Apple’s Safari. The day after purchasing the dress, as I went through my
Instagram feed, ads about my dress, that I had searched for on Safari, kept popping up. Not only
did the ads belong to the store that I had purchased the dress from, but dresses that I had
considered, where also in the ads. Although I have to admit the memes are amusing, I was totally
freaked and a bit paranoid by the function of cookies. The ease at which our government can
retrieve personal information is mindblowing.
Even if the Government claims to only keep close surveillance on us because they want
to keep us safe, that’s still invading and it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere. A few years
back, the Long Beach Police department obtained access to 400 cameras including private and
public ones in which Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell claims that surveillance cameras
being used by his department are “not running a camera-monitoring center, but it will allow them
to see what happened or is occurring on a street or intersection”. He also claims it “it won’t be a
case of ‘big brother is watching’ because a central control center will enlist the private cameras
only when police know an incident is unfolding in a certain area”. Again, the Chief states that
it’s sole purpose is to keep its citizens safe. This may be true, but with the resources that the
cameras provide to the government and its officials, the power could easily be misused. It’s great
that the police department can now take faster action when threats fall on their radar, but at what
cost? They take away part of the freedoms people have always had. For instance, surveillance
cameras put up on residential streets have the capability to view citizens on their private
property, which in turn takes away their right to privacy. These cameras may be for use of safety
within those neighborhoods, but the trade-off are the rights of everyday citizens in order to do so.
1984 provides an inside view of how surveillance technology can become a threat to
citizens and a tool to the government in order to maintain power. As of right now, these
resources are primarily being used by online advertisers and government officials. However, this
power can easily slip into the wrong hands, allowing strangers to have the ability of tracking all
of your personal data which can cause chaos throughout the internet. The world of Big Brother
might be already here and we do not even notice it.
“Center for Democracy & Technology | Keeping the Internet Open, Innovative and Free.” NSA
Surveillance. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May. 2018.
Maass, Peter. “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker.” New York Times 13 July 2012. Print.
Orwell, George. 1984. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949. Print.
Winton, Richard. “Long Beach Police to Use 400 Cameras Citywide to Fight Crime.” Los
Angeles Times 15 Aug. 2012. Print.