In A.D. 1949, George Orwell published his novel 1984—a dystopian view of the future. Mr. Orwell’s most frightening prediction was that “Big Brother” would install video/audio monitors in each of our homes and workplaces to constantly spy on all of us, to ensure that we didn’t deviate from the “party line”. We would always be subject to government surveillance and never have a moment of privacy for ourselves.
Orwell’s prediction was about 35 years premature. So far as I know, government has not yet installed its own video or audio recording devices in my home. Still, if you’re like me, you probably have a video camera mounted on top of your computer screen, and you wonder from time to time if the government has secretly turned it on to spy on you.
Maybe our concerns about privacy are evidence of paranoia. Maybe they’re prudent. In either case, it’s nearly undeniable that even if government hasn’t yet used our own video cameras to spy on us, it has spied on our credit card expenses, telephone and cellphone conversations, email, websites, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
There’s no question that, every day, government uses ever-more sophisticated technology to spy on us. Orwell was right. Big Brother is watching all of us.
But Orwell was also wrong in that he did not foresee that the same technology that allowed Big Brother to spy on all of us, would also become so cheap and ubiquitous that virtually all of us—the millions of “little brothers”—could also spy on Big Brother.