“We are all little brothers”

In 1949, George Orwell published 1984, a classic tale of government oppression of ideas and freedoms, characterized by loss of privacy on a massive scale.  The famous quote ‘Big Brother is watching you’ warns the citizens that little they do in their private lives will escape the scrutiny of the totalitarian regime.

Fast forward to 2007: Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Soddart, is raising the alarm on privacy.  Ubiquitous cameras and video recorders, combined with an increasingly cavalier attitude about what can be posted online, are undermining our privacy in ways even Mr. Orwell couldn’t have imagined. 

Says Ms. Stoddart: “It’s not just Big Brother who’s akin to a government watching you in the Orewllian dystopia.  We’re all little brothers.  We’re all fascinated with the gadgets that allow you to do this.”

Are we all little brothers, immaturely wandering our neighborhoods, snapping pictures of whatever catches our eye and posting it to Flickr within minutes?  Are all the little brothers out there taking hours of video, hoping for something scandalous to happen so it can be captured and posted to YouTube for all to see? 

And while 1984’s Winston Smith was fearful of the Ministry of Truth, in today’s world should we be wary of each other


2 Responses to “We are all little brothers”

  1. If there is any single factor leading us toward an Orwellian trampling of privacy rights, it is the post-911 preoccupation with public security. It is widely considered heresy to question the need for ever-increasing security measures, which are usually justified in reference to terrorist or criminal threats. What we have lost sight of is that security risks, like all risks, must be managed in reference to the other risks we all face. Oft-heard quotes like “Nothing is more important than the safety of the public.” are not only wrong, they are very, very dangerous. Is the avoidance of totalitarianism less important than the safety of the public? Is it more important to be safe than to be free? I say the answer to both questions is “No”.

  2. […] we use and what information we share with web sites.  We need not worry so much about big (or little) brothers poking around in our lives if we just keep a leash on our own sensitive […]

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