Net Widening: Big Brother Is Watching You

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Privacy is a right that many Americans take for granted. Americans, for the most part, feel that they have privacy. But do they really? In order for one to achieve individuality and autonomy one must have privacy, which is the key factor. For the rapid advances in technology, however, one exchanges their privacy. Should one happen to use a computer to use the Internet, for example, their level of privacy is decreased substantially as you open the door to social control. As Orwell says in 1984, “Big Brother is watching you.”

Ever since the creation of the Internet, more specifically the World Wide Web, the government has utilized Orwellian tactics of surveillance. “Many parts of the Internet are still kind of like the raw frontier and the Government wants to stake its claim” (TechnoCulture). For instance, in December of 1995, news was released concerning the Government’s intention to fund another ten thousand closed circuit surveillance systems. Even though civil libertarians were assured this action had no sinister motive, responses from most were leery to say the least (“Big Brother…”).

This technology is very similar to that which Steven Mann, MIT computer specialist, uses. His “wearable wireless webcam” provides anyone logged onto his Internet home address live views of his daily routine. “The Internet is sprouting eyes. And ears. And vending machines, hot tubs, coffeepots, robot gardeners, and model railroads. The armada of devices plugged into the Internet, in fact, is transforming the network into a bizarre place that falls somewhere between George Orwell’s 1984 and Candid Camera run amok” (TechnoCulture). Intel currently uses the same technology for the cameras they sell for consumers to put on top of their monitors in order to be seen by others. This technology is inside your very computer monitor (“Eyes On The Net”). How do you know it’s not being utilized to oversee you? Is Big Brother watching you? “A year ago, there were only a few devices connected to the Internet that any person could freely use. But the number of devices is exploding. Uses for these things are as diverse as a person’s imagination. As devices have proliferated, imaginative applications of telepresence technology have attracted a huge following among rank-and-file Internet users. The implications of such devices have devastating potential” (“Eyes On The Net”). Another bit of a shocker is that Web pages can actually keep track of the Internet addresses of visitors. This intrinsically is a complete invasion of privacy. Just imagine someone else knows about every Web page you go to.

So what? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that this infringement of privacy strips one of their individuality and autonomy. This form of social control can kill individuality. According to JM Balkin, “Each of us has both a public and private self; the public self we reveal to the world, and the private self we retain control over by withholding it from others. Our ability to provide or withhold aspects of our private selves preserves and constitutes our autonomy. The exchanges of private information, signal intimacy and trust, and their disclosure to third parties is usually thought of as a sign of betrayal” (Understanding…). Even if one is unaware of the infringement against them it will still harm their individuality because what you withhold from others is a part of what makes up your individuality. Once others know what you don’t want them to, your individuality is opened and destroyed (Understanding…). These violations are already presented in several businesses and educational institutions throughout America (“WARNING…”). These violations produce what Edward Bloustein describes as “…a being that is not an individual.” “A man compelled to live every minute of his life among others and whose every need, thought, fancy, or gratification is subject to public scrutiny merges with the mass and is deprived of...
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