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  1. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    Orwell's "1984" and the (Worldwide) Erosion of Personal Privacy

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Dryriver, Apr 9, 2012.

    Hello folks,

    I've been following the news lately, and came across the following, to me deeply disturbing and disquieting, information:

    1) The U.S. Govt is spending 2 Billion Dollars on a huge Data Storage facility in Utah, that will be used to store the emails, text messages, phone conversations, tweets, credit card usage and everyday internet usage of millions of ordinary Americans. Law enforcement and a number of U.S. govt agencies will have unfettered access to this "personal data" without requiring a special court order or warrant. This is supposedly done for "National Security" reasons.

    2) The Conservative Party in the UK is trying to sign the exact same thing into law. Under the new law, the emails, text messages, phonecalls, credit card transactions, internet usage and other private information of millions of UK Citizens would be stored in purpose built datacenters for 2 years. During this 24 month data retention period, the UK police and various UK govt agencies would be able to sift through this personal data pretty much when and as they see fit. This is also, supposedly, done for "National Security" and "Law Enforcement" reasons.

    Many other countries - both in the developed and developing world - are either planning to put similar "electronic surveillance" schemes into action, or, in some cases, already have all the required snooping technology in place already, are using this tech daily on thousands of unsuspecting citizens, and are merely waiting for the right "political moment" to sign these schemes into law oficially.


    Am I the only one who has read Orwell's classic "1984" a couple of times over, and thinks that Orwell was absolutely and 100% right to warn against the creation of such 24/7 surveillance states?


    Am I being needlessly paranoid about this, or do some of you also find this (global) trend to "watch everyone electronically" disturbing?

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    If you do, what can be done to counteract this trend? Would writing about it (and against it) in various places help inform more ordinary people about what is happening - or - about to happen to their "private data"?

    Your views and comments on this are most welcome,

    Dryriver
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    Nineteen Eighty-Four might have been possible at one point in time, but I highly doubt we'll be marching under Telescreens and reciting 'War is Peace' any time soon. You see, 24 hour servalance wasn't really the point of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Orwell says so himself in the first few pages. What mattered more was the psychological conditioning the surveillance had, as well as the constant propaganda and the Thought Police.

    From the Penguin version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, page 3.

    This is also what a lot of people forget. Orwell was not warning against constant surveillance, not entirely anyway, but talking about the Totalitarian mindset and why it's actually - horribly - quite attractive.
  3. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    The world was technologically advanced enough in 1949 for someone of Orwell's intellect to be able to imagine, quite clearly, what living in a society that is under 24/7 techno-surveillance would do to peoples' minds. Just as Jules Verne was able to imagine submarines and space travel, and Nikola Tesla was able to imagine a crude version of what would later become the "Internet".

    I believe that George Orwell was very, very clearly warning the reader about letting the government - any government - install things in the home and the workplace that spy on you, or "see and hear you".

    I also believe that he absolutely nailed the fact that "24/7 surveillance" doesn't come on its own.

    That the immense power it puts into the hands of a few powerful people will corrupt them to the point where they force daily propaganda on people, attempt to control all perceived reality, and even feel empowered to change records of the past at will.

    I think that Orwell's observations were spot on.

    I also think that his warning is something that carries more weight in today's electronics-riddled world than it would have in 1949, when the book was first published.
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    This is the problem. It's what you 'believe', not what you know.

    Orwell knew what living in a Totalitarian regime was like because he lived under such a regime. Twice. Once in Spain, which he describes in Homage to Catalonia and then again in London during WW2, which was a major inspiration for the version of London we find in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It's not just about letting surveillance into the private world, Orwell was already very much aware of other more subtle political influences on people (look at his essay 'Politics and the English Language', if you haven't already) but the Orwellian use for surveillance is very different from our own, which is to protect property, not to halt independent thought.

    And actually Surveillance is in many peoples hands. There is not some giant watch-room ran by the government, most CCTV systems are private. Those that aren't are mostly in place to help protect government property.

    Orwell's observations in the way of CCTV is actually pretty wide of the mark the more you look into the subject; but his observations of people, language used to influence opinion, and Totalitarian thinking are very good and still worth reading. There is also a theory that the Appendix at the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four is still within the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, hinting at the downfall of the party.

    So sit down, relax, have a coke, and stop worrying. Big Brother is not watching you.
  5. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless New Member

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    It's been a bit too long since I've read 1984, might deserve a re-read. What I can say, is personally, this uber surveillance and tracking of law abiding citizens is just a symptom of the problem. There's a lot of other things going around just as concerning, where we as a people are giving up our rights (or letting it slip through our fingers) for the false security of safety. That's the thing all of this nonsense, we are accepting a completely false security instead of holding onto what is ours. Unfortunately, left leaning as I may be, I've got a big problem with this attitude that as long as I'm not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to worry about.
  6. Gonissa
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    Gonissa New Member

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    You're totally right. People leave a bunch up to the government these days. People would actually like the government to provide all healthcare for free. What they fail to realize is that this gives the government the right to do whatever they want with healthcare, and we have to suck it up because "they're paying for it" -- except we're the ones really paying through taxes. Seriously, giving money to the government is adding a middle man. It's better to pay for one's own medical care, and it's better for the private citizen to give to those around us, because we know our neighbors better than some nebulous organization that's many miles away.

    As for the digital data thing, well, terrorists screwed us up on that one. I don't know if this policy is right or not, but generally nobody working in the government is going to waste their time staring at a bunch of normal people's stuff. We're simply not interesting enough. I mean, these guys are supposed to be looking for threats, and they don't have time to waste looking at people's nonsense instant messaging (you know you've had some pretty dumb im conversations before -- we all have at one point or another) or emails about breaking up with your ex. It's almost like looking at pictures of people you don't know. Why would they care?
  7. sam80
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    sam80 New Member

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    whenever you read this kind of thing happening, its normally by a group (the media) that will tell the most sensational slant on it, omitting important info or exagerating etc. I'm not saying I think its a good thing however.

    I can't speak for the states, but in the UK there has been some reports of this info/technology. However along with those reports, there is the other info that if this happens, they wont just be able to sit there sipping there coffee having a nose through peoples Facebook, twitter, emails, BBM etc. They will still require the appropriate warrants, that come with very specific conditions, which they can only actually get with specific criteria and genuine suspicion. Like I said, I am not saying its a good thing, but lets not take it out of context.

    Plus if another tragic terrorist incident occurred, then the public on which ever side of the Atlantic would be crying out why didnt they do more to prevent it, well they have to know to prevent it...


    (PS its not conservative governmentt, its the con-dems. Conservative and Liberal democrat parties joined to make one government - which is pants lol)
  8. Gonissa
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    Gonissa New Member

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    That's right, y'all have the Labour party also. I was doing some reading on your government (It was actually a Churchill biography, but the writer wasn't the greatest....) and from over here it seems like your government is pretty confusing. Is it simpler than I think it is?
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on what you think it is like. ;)

    But if you are reading a Churchill biography. He lived at a very radical time, especially during the 30s when many people where expressing pro-fascist sentiments and the British political system had to contend with things like Hitler, Stalin, fascist Italy, and the Spanish civil war. The politics was very different then, and here has been a great number of reforms in British politics since Churchill's time.
  10. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    This is thoughtcrime.
  11. sam80
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    sam80 New Member

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    We do have labour too yes, but i meant that it isnt the conservatives in power right now, 2 main parties are making up the ruling government at the mo, its called a hung parliement, it can happen due the to voting system we have. Its pretty rare to actually occur but it has this time. I agree british politics can be complex, from the point of view of the systems, and how the government is made up etc.... Apologies for derailing and babbling.
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    It's not a hung parliament. A hung parliament is when there is no party with a majority of seats. What we have now is a coalition government.
  13. sam80
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    sam80 New Member

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    @Lemex, absolutely, I stand corrected ;), I meant to say it was a hung parliament, hence the reason we have the coalition I was alluding to before...
  14. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless New Member

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    And then my lefty self comes in, because I am paying the government for a lot of nonsense. Government run healthcare? No, not a fan of it, but something has to be done. It's all great for private citizens to pay for their own, but when prices keep raising and they cannot afford it? We get the situation we're in today in the states. There's a lot of factors causing the issue in health care and what we got hasn't fixed it, and government run healthcare would just mask the issue.

    We do know our neighbors better. except it wasn't just the great depression that brought all of our social welfare programs into place. The fact remains, charities and churches and etc, could not handle the needs of all the people.

    Oh, I've had some boring emails/IMs/etc and then I've had some interesting ones. The issue is, they already have means to track us all, they just have to go through the legal channels instead of "storing" it in case I start showing signs of being a criminal. Heck, I don't even let the companies I choose to do business with store my credit card information for my own ease, what makes the government think they can? They want to track my purchases? Get a warrant and get that from the bank, they keep it. They want access to my e-mails, get a warrant and they'll get it. The issue is, right now, sure it's probably only going to be used for it's purpose but ten years down the line? Paranoid or not, I'm not going to accept them invading my right to privacy. Eventually, if everything is done for our safety, we're not going to have anything left.
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  15. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    I don't think that digital mass-surveillance, which is becoming a trend virtually everywhere these days, has much to do with "safety" at all.

    I think that these systems are designed from the outset to spot potential "troublemakers", "political actors" and "enemies of the state/system" as early as possible, and deal with them as quickly and decisively as possible.

    For example, if you are a talented writer and orator, and you are planning on embarking on a personal mission to improve say "workers' rights" in the country, the system would sniff you out early, and start collecting information about your private life (from your emails, phonecalls, text messages, internet browsing, smart TV viewing).

    By the time you enter the actual "ring" or "arena" of politics, the status-quo would have thousands of pieces of information about you, from what you watch on Television to what you read online, to what femme you - maybe - text while you sit in the pub with your mates.

    Some of this info may perhaps look quite unflattering if it ceases to be "private", and so the owners of the mass-surveillance system would be in a very good position to predict & attack your politics with accuracy, tarnish your reputation, skew your public image, make you look marginal in some ways, and so on and so forth.

    Hell, they could make up all sorts of screwy data about you, inject that made-up data into your official digital records, and make you look like something/someone that in reality, you really are not! But it would fall into your hands to prove that you are NOT what they make you look like.

    These snooping systems are dangerous on so many different levels, if you ask me. The power they place in the hands of a - not necessarily trustworthy - elite few is staggering. The potential for "mayhem" and "nastiness" resulting from the capabilities of these systems is huge.
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    Have you actually done the research? Do you know how many CCTV systems are owned by civilians?
  17. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    We are not talking about the lowly CCTV cameras that hang over the Raja family's convenience store on the street corner.

    We are talking about digital "information intercept" systems that can capture your phonecalls, text messages, emails, credit card usage, internet browsing, smart TV or cable TV viewing, the geolocation of your smart phone, the location of your car, and many, many other things about you, and throw all these things together in a convenient little digital database for the authorities that you yourself have no access to/oversight over whatsoever (i.e. you'll never really know what about you was stored when, by whom, for what purpose, based on what criteria or legal precedent, and for how long...).

    CCTV cameras are an old hat by comparison. Though paired with real-time face recognition, they can become a serious "privacy buster", too.
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    Ok then. Do you know that most of these information systems are ran by large corporations like Amazon, not the government? So, again, Orwell was not 100% right.
  19. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    First, inform yourself a little by going here:

    http://wikileaks.org/the-spyfiles.html

    Second, the plan in multiple countries appears to be to let companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, ISPs, Telcos collect all sorts of private data about people, and then pipe all this data into one place - a government-run datacenter.

    Orwell lived long before the Internet was even conceivable (1984 was published in 1949), so he could not have foreseen the "exact form" mass-surveillance would take on 60 years - that's 6 decades - after his novel was published.

    But he got the overall mechanics of the surveillance right - his "Telescreens" in 1984 are eeriely similar to today's camera, microphone and internet connection equipped Smart TVs, Smart Phones, Tablet Computers, and even Game Consoles (the next generation will probaly ship with Kinect-like motion capture cameras by default).

    Orwell also deserves credit for nailing the psychology of "hopelessness" and "downtroddenness" and "being watched" that the 24/7 surveillance in 1984 creates.

    I personally think that Orwell got a heck-of-a-lot right in his book. I'd give him a medal if he were alive. :cool:
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    I personally don't trust everything I hear from Wikileaks.
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'll love Google then. My husband got my a new laptop a couple of weeks ago and helped me install various stuff on it, including importing my Chrome bookmarks. Sounds ordinary enough, right?

    Then I go and start using my new laptop and browse on Chrome - first thing, I look at the bookmarks.

    And guess what? They were exactly the bookmarks I had from 2.5 years ago, on another computer entirely, at work. You see, back when I worked for that firm, they used Chrome and Google Docs and Calendar for everything. But that was a work computer, and I've never transported any data from my work computer to anywhere else.

    And now, 2.5 years later, in an entirely different country, with different internet connection, different provider, different physical laptop, I find all my bookmarks - over 20 of them, in the exact order I had it at work.

    That was really freaky for me. For the first time, I saw just how much information Google keeps on you, and for a long time too. And it's not even illegal, considering when we started using google and gmail etc we've agreed to letting them store our data.

    I'd actually be more afraid of Google than surveillance cameras and governmental data centres. I mean, most officials surely have better things to do than sieve through useless emails and texts talking about how great the weather was and that my cat sneezed this morning.
  22. Gatsoh
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    Gatsoh New Member

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    Lemex if you don't think the government has access to all of the information that our digital footprint leaves behind you're very deluded.
  23. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    They provide a masterlist of surveillance-tech vendors from 25 countries who mainly sell to governments. There's also 287 or so leaked documents that are manuals, brochures, presentations, spec sheets or pricelists relating to the surveillance-tech that these companies peddle to governments.

    I've checked it out, and it all looks quite legit to me.

    Don't know why you have such a problem "trusting Wikileaks".

    Maybe you are uncomfortable with the "picture of the future" that emerges from studying this stuff?

    If yes, that only makes you "normal" in my book. =)
  24. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Supporter Contributor

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    I like to think of it in these terms: 'I don't believe everything I hear just because it's from an otherwise respected source' or 'thinking'. Dryriver could very well be right, I don't know what goes on in the higher echelons of power. Do you?

    I see. Well, it looks like after University I have some reading to do. My 'problem' (not exactly a problem) with Wikileaks is that it's only one source, I can't just believe something I've heard once over the internet and you can't expect me to. I find conspiracy theories largely silly to be honest, but totalitarian visions of the future? Yeah, you'd have to be crazy to not be uncomfortable thinking it.
  25. Dryriver
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    Dryriver New Member

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    Wanna know what seriously freaked me out?

    I'm not on Facebook (for privacy reasons).

    One day I get an email from Facebook:

    "Blah person invites you to join him on Facebook..."

    Then came the freaky thing:

    "You may also know the following 14 people on Facebook:"

    There was a list of 14 names in the email, and 12 were people I actually know/knew once.

    So even though I am not on Facebook - and have never been - Facebook "knows" me, as well as 12 people I know from various places.

    How did Facebook pull off this magic-trick?

    It seems that Microsoft sold my supposedly "private" MSN Messenger usage data to Facebook, and Facebook used that data to infer that I know these particular 12 people!

    Very scary!

    I feel kind of sorry for the current generation of kids being born...

    They will never experience the world of the 70s/80s/90s, where what was "private" actually remained "private" and actually meant something...
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