Nineteen Eighty-Four, No More

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a society that is under complete surveillance. Since its publication, inferences are made to the idea of “Big Brother” when discussing the government’s use or misuse of power as it relates to civil liberties. And yet, as technology becomes completely contextual, individuals are embracing the trend. SoLoMo was just the beginning. The focus has shifted to video surveillance in public space.

Information is distributed widely, across different mediums, resulting in a fast-paced, information driven society. Google Earth has the ability to take you places and see things that are on the other side of the world with the click of a button. New video technology allows big brands to capture the reactions of their consumers to advertisements through the use of their webcam.

“Big Brother” has been a topic of controversy in the past. However, in light of recent situations like the Boston Bombings it seems that this lack of privacy was incredibly useful. Citizens, police officials, and government agencies were able to access video and images that led to the eventual apprehension of the accused. It was the first crowd-sourced collaboration of its kind. In this case, it was successful but that won’t always be the case.

There have been many cases where the operators of these surveillance tools have used them for personal purposes. An investigation by the Detroit Free Press showed a database in Michigan that was being used by officers to help their friend’s or themselves stalk women, threaten motorists, and track estranged spouses. Clearly, this is not what the video surveillance cameras were created for. No matter the benefits, the world is human and there will always be risks as new technologies emerge.

Video surveillance has changed the world of investigation, safety, and privacy. It is expected and now normal to see cameras lined along every street, outside of every building. Orwell depicted an inscrutable dictator that ruled a utopian society but with the new advancements in technology since its publication, Big Brother might just take on a new meaning entirely.