School teachers, college professors and civil libertarians cherish the dystopian novel 1984 written by English author Eric Blair, better known by his pen name of George Orwell. The main character in the novel, Winston Smith, was constantly surveilled by members of the government “inner party”.
Government officials spied on Winston as well as his fellow fictional citizens through cameras embedded in everything from TVs to telephone poles. School children in the United States were assigned this novel for decades so they could get a sense of what life would be like if the country were to devolve into totalitarian rule.
Now that we are surrounded by cameras, one must ask: why bother assigning 1984 to students as required reading when all they have to do is step outside their door to experience life similar to that experienced by Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel?
Big Brother is Watching
Shockingly little has been made of the fact that we are surrounded by cameras. Step outside your door and you will likely be filmed at some point as you head to work, drop your kids off at school or do errands. Surveillance cameras are just about everywhere these days yet the media is not bringing this fact to the public’s attention. From red light cameras to cell phones listening and recording our conversations to security cameras in elevators, airports and businesses, just about everything is being filmed.
Even some parking lots and city streets have cameras. In fact, a growing number of hiking trails have cameras positioned at elevated points under the guise of securing the public’s well-being.
It is clear Big Brother is watching. Making matters worse is the fact that the government is in cahoots with corporations. If you question this statement, consider the fact that JetBlue is working hand-in-hand with the federal government to supposedly secure its terminals and flights.
JetBlue cameras record visitors and transmit the footage to the federal government’s Customs and Border Protection to run facial recognition scans. This is all being done in the name of security. Unfortunately, the alliance between the private sector and the federal government will likely lead to a corporate fascism of sorts in due time.
Just because you decide to take a flight with JetBlue does not mean you should be tracked by cameras from the moment you walk into the airport until the moment you exit at your destination. Airlines such as JetBlue argue such footage is necessary for ID checks.
However, if this were the case, why would the footage be shared with the federal government? Why can’t a JetBlue employee check each passenger’s driver’s license or passport along with his or her boarding pass prior to boarding the aircraft?
Sadly, the capture of such biometric information will undoubtedly be used for nefarious purposes ranging from tracking your every movement prior to boarding a flight to helping the government monitor the behavior of everyday citizens who mean no harm whatsoever.
Those of us born before the turn of the millennium remember the days when true privacy existed. Worrying about government and corporate security cameras is one thing; smartphone cameras add another dreaded twist to those who cherish their privacy. It is now possible for anyone who owns a smartphone to record you, your family and anyone else when in public.
Think about that for a moment. If you are in a public place, someone near you holding a smartphone might not be checking social media but instead recording your every movement. There is the potential for such footage to be forwarded to everyone from sexual predators to government officials, Facebook social circles, YouTube and beyond. In other words, privacy outside of the home is dead.
Those who have not yet concealed their laptop’s camera with a sticker or non-translucent tape might even be spied on while in the comfort of their own home.
We Must Reclaim Our Privacy
Enough is enough. It is time to start an open and ongoing dialogue about preserving our privacy. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people question whether it is prudent to have just about every waking moment captured on film.
Members of generation Z and those to follow do not question the ubiquity of cameras simply because they were born into a world in which constant surveillance is the norm. It is up to us Baby Boomers to fight this privacy intrusion and show the younger generations that you do not have to give up your freedoms for the sake of technological advances.
If we do not take action now, there is little hope those born into our version of 1984 will put up a fight against Big Brother, be it in the form of a budding totalitarian government or corporate fascism.