Does technology help create an Orwellian world?

NSA PRISM scandalAs more and more secrets tumble out of the recent surveillance gathering scandal in the USA and also considering how various governments, including India, are constantly working towards curbing freedom of speech and monitoring your communications, are we moving towards the ideal Orwellian world? In George Orwell’s 1984 the big brother is constantly watching you using whatever means are available at that time.

These days almost all our communication happens digitally. We are constantly making phone calls, publishing status updates, uploading videos and images and interacting with friends and family on the Internet. We interact less with people around us and more with people in the virtual world. We provide ample data to tell the interested people what we think, what ideologies we believe in, what are our political opinions, which schools and colleges our kids go to, what products and services we spend our money on and where our loyalties and interests lie.

Personally I believe most of the people don’t even understand the implications, especially when it comes to countries like India where the government can be extremely repressive without even anybody realizing it. Just imagine if you can be arrested for having a political opinion. Imagine being hounded by criminals simply because you comment on rising incidence of crime in your area. Imagine policemen knocking at your door in the dead of the night simply because you believe there is an active police-criminal nexus and you let it be known on your timeline.

Through your ISPs and other web services, they can easily find out where you live. Even the presence of a mobile phone in your pocket can let the interested people know where you are right now and track you. Your TV set top box tells interested parties which channel you’re watching most of the time and for how long you watch. Even when you skip ads, they know it.

Less connected world of course had its own problems but it also made difficult the misuse of access to massive amounts of data. The problem with most of the surveillance is that it rarely captures the intended people – terrorists and underworld operatives – and it is the common folks that become the target. A small business owner in one of the southern states said something about P Chidambram’s son and got himself arrested in a matter of a day simply because they were able to trace his whereabouts without much fuss. Even right now, every single tweet, every single Facebook update and blog post is being monitored: even this one.

You may also like to read NSA surveillance puts George Orwell’s 1984 on bestseller list.