Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Brother Is Watching You

In 1947, George Orwell published the mother of all dystopian novels, 1984. In the story, protagonist Winston Smith lived in a totalitarian society headed by Big Brother.

One facet of Big Brother's total control over the populace was a comprehensive network of surveillance technology. It was so pervasive that at any given moment, it might zero in on anyone, anywhere.

Kate Murphy's New York Times article Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live brings the potential of 1984 to 2010. The article tells how much you reveal with a simple snapshot taken by your cell phone.

When Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his automobile parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home.

If thieves have access to this information, do you think Big Brother does not? And don't forget the GPS chips in so many newer cars on the road today.

But let's not neglect video surveillance: American cities that would like to emulate London's camera-on- every-corner snooping into the lives of its citizens. Right out of 1984.

Orwell's novel also had unmanned drones that spied on people. We're not far behind there, either. Consider the following news video of Houston P.D.'s test of a surveillance drone.

The fact that reps from Homeland Security attended the test, and the fact that officials tried to keep secret the existence of this new surveillance equipment does not bode well for our much-eroded Fourth Amendment rights.

(Thanks to RPC for the link to this video)

Couple the capabilities of these technologies with the Orwellian concept of thoughtcrime, and you have the recipe for an unparalleled totalitarian reign of terror.

To be continued

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