An Orwellian world activated through your electronics

The Channels Opinion Pages | EDITOR COLUMN

MAC WALBY, Associate Editor

In the 1940s, George Orwell wrote in his novel “1984” about a brutal, authoritarian dictatorship that used technology to watch and listen in on the citizens of Oceania.

He imagined a world where people constantly lived in fear of every corner camera, television and radio.

But he never imagined a world where citizens would willingly bring these devices into their lives.

With all the technology available these days, most of us take for granted just how much of a risk these devices that we attach to our hips and hands can be.

While all of these new gadgets have brought an incredible amount of convenience to our lives, they’ve also taken away any sort of privacy that people have come to expect.

When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s data surveillance program PRISM, most American’s were in for a shock. And while this wasn’t a surprise to most of us “conspiracy nuts,” the news seemed to come as a general surprise to the public.

How did it never occur to anyone that the camera and recording device in their pocket could possibly record them?

This week Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Twitter, the companies mainly responsible for these technologies, asked the U.S. government to massively scale back their data collection. And while we can all appreciate these big companies sticking up for the consumer for once, it sure feels a bit hypocritical.

Multiple outlets have reported time and time again about the government connection to these companies. And surprisingly, most American’s find Google’s data collection to be far more worrisome than the NSA’s.

While the government uses the same tired “national security” excuse to justify their data collection, what exactly is Google and Facebook’s excuse? To help you get an advertisement for the right shoes?

I love my phone and computer just as much as I’m sure everyone else does, but they bring with them a difficult moral dilemma.

Am I okay with some Apple executive looking at my text records, or a Google system administrator looking at my browsing history?

The short answer is absolutely not, but what are we supposed to do?

To get a job it’s practically required to have a phone and email address. Anything with the Internet and Google is bound to be involved almost immediately.

And while there are ways to combat the collection web around us, it takes at least some amount of technical ability. But most importantly it takes a ton of time and effort.

There is no easy answer to issue, but it does raise some important questions for us as a society. How far are we willing to let convenience overrule privacy? How much information is too much?

Instead of waiting for a change, we have to demand it.

In today’s society, money speaks far louder than words, especially to corporations with billion dollar profits.

The biggest weapon we have in the capitalist system is our dollar. Until there’s a big enough demand for safe, secure devices, these companies will continue not making our privacy a priority.