1984 Surveillance Essay
George Orwell’s 1984 writes of a dystopian society that has become severally oppressed by the methods ‘The Party’ uses to control its society. The people do not think for themselves, and there is no independence from the government’s rules. One form that the party has control over everyone is with mind manipulation and constant surveillance, watching people actions and reactions to their messages that ‘The Party’ shares via the ‘telescreen’. A ‘telescreen’ is a two-way connection screen that people watch and are watched, it is never turned off. They play propaganda videos at all times that are placed in people’s homes, work, and public places like restaurants and such. Other than the screens microphones are placed all over ‘Oceana’ so there is nowhere to hide without them finding out where you are and if you’re up to anything that goes against ‘Big Brother’ as they would say in the story.
Like 1984 we seem to be living in a parallel world to ‘Oceana’, we have seen technology evolve over time to become more advanced and discrete. The government and hackers watch everyone, unlike Orwell’s 1984 world, we are not aware of who could be watching us and why. George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ shows how his society is heavily surveilled by the government, the people need to be couscous about what they share, what’s interesting is how it relates to today by how accessible technology makes every bodies information.
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People are not aware if they are watched and when they do find out they feel a great violation of their privacy has been taken advantage of. In our modern times, we have become accustomed to surveillance systems for security. Apart from that, we have learned that there are people who take advantage of these systems for their own benefit; such as identity theft, government spying, etc. Many people have tried to expose the truth of the misuse of the people’s information. People like Edward Snowden who in recent time has become a whistleblower about the NSA and CIA surveillance tactics. In his interview with (Greenwald) The Guardian in 2013, he (Snowden) expresses his concern for the U.S. future and the rights of the people. As Snowden expressed in the video that those agencies and government are giving themselves the authority to do as they please to benefit themselves.
Those in power have resources that normal people do not have access to, because of this they can easily abuse information. Research has shown that there is a discrimination against lower class people. As stated in an article by Matt Reichel (Race, Class, and Privacy: A Critical Historical Review), ‘The phone used by the rich is encrypted by default and cannot be surveilled, and the phone used by most people in the global south and the poor and disadvantaged can be surveilled”, (pg. 4757). Why do the phones for the rich have encryption versus everyone else? Are only people who are poor a threat or are they trying to keep something from getting out? We are being surveilled by people who do not have our interest in the mind and if they know that they are at risk of being found out they will do anything they can to discredit information leaked.
Greenwald and Snowden discuss why he [Snowden] had to flee the US because our government says that he is against us and trying to defect to enemy countries. This is something that he said they would do based on all the information they have gathered from someone if they have any reason to suspect you as someone with too much information that can harm those in power. The traced back everything you might have searched, posted, or connections to others who are not ‘patriotic’ and nitpick everything you’ve done to persuade the public that you are a terrorist or a threat to the country. They do anything to ruin your image and taint your reputation, discrediting anything that comes from the person of interest.
In a TEDx convention, Luke Harding talks about what the press has learned to form the files that Snowden has released. Journalist Luke Harding a writer for The Guardian has written a book called the ‘The Snowden Files’ which talks about when journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden meet to discuss the information he [Snowden] had provided and tell his side of the story. How the NSA can by remote control tap into people’s devices and turn on the speaker to listen in on them and collect your web searches, your email, your text and have access to your geolocation. They can follow one and them not be aware of it. If one is aware of their phones for example if your battery is being drained faster than usually something suspicious may be going on.
Something Harding said at his TEDx convention is that people are zombies with their smartphones (The Snowden Files: the inside story of the world’s most wanted man), this reminded me of when Orwell wrote about how Winston the main character in the book needs to love big brother and not doubt what they say. To not think about it and accept what they tell you as the truth. There is nothing to say that it’s was different than what they say. They erase anything that would prove them as liars since they are always changing the language and rewriting paper, book, or anything that would say otherwise. As it states in 1984 ‘Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past’. Those in control of information can alter it to coincide with what they want to be known and hide or destroy what they don’t want to be found. Sometimes surveillance isn’t used to help the public but instead is being used against them. Information that is gathered from them as ‘data’ but what is the true purpose of it. If somebody goes against what is expected the ‘data’ can be manipulated to make it seem as something different than what was the truth.
Many agree that people who feel are a threat do need to be watched and kept a close eye on but are not comfortable having others looking through their private information since they are good law-abiding people. An article written for The New York Times by Ryan Goodman (‘A Blow Against Big Brother.’) stresses the conflict with security and surveillance for the public. There is a fine line that is hard to compromise on what is right and what is an overreach of power. Many have become more concerned with their right to privacy and want our government to respect it. Them not doing so violates the public trust and leads to conflict between the government and the people. What do we do when we learn the ones who we have put our trust in are lying and doing anything in their power to convince us that otherwise? The people will fight back if they feel that they have been oppressed to the point where they aren’t able to choose for them self. If every people got to the point of fighting back and demanding their rights to privacy it may lead to another civil war. When the majority of people band together they know that they will be outnumbered, having to give in and that is something that they want to prevent.
The government argues that the reason for them spying on the public is to be able to detect who anyone or group who may be against us and stop them before they are able to attack. Ever since 9/11 many wonder if it is possible it will happen and have trusted the agencies to do as they have said to protect us from future terrorist attacks. By knowing the public’s online activity, it can help prevent catastrophic outcomes. If they say this, then why have so many things happened since they are monitoring people’s activity? What are they looking at as a threat? On February 14, 2018, a boy in Florida walked into a high school and killed 17 people who were shot by an assault rifle (Julie Turkewits, Patricia Mazzel, and Audra D. S. Burch New York Times feb. 15, 2018).
News stations show that he had posted alarming content on his social media and somehow no one thought to investigate him to see what he was up to. Also last year  in Manchester at an arena a suicide bomber set off a bomb that killed 22 people and injured many more (The Guardian, Pidd). Why wasn’t this also prevented if they watch all activity of people? My point is why do they try to convince the public that they are watching everything that we do if nothing is being done to prevent them. These types of events shouldn’t have happened in the first place if someone was paying attention to the signs and what they say they were doing was true.
An article from The Age (Twisted logic makes no case for mass snooping) talks about how the agencies try to justify what they are doing and their logic for it. Like in 1984 even though Winston had been found out everything seems to continue the same as it had before. He wanted to make a change but couldn’t because of the power ‘The Party’ had. People have been informed but many don’t question what they are told and just go along with what they are told is ‘truth’ because they have been conditioned to believe it so. It makes me wonder what is expected for us in the future and in what way we can make a difference. There are so many uncertainties that hold us back from thinking for our own and this is unsettling to see the similarities of 1984 written more than seventy years ago, and our present day. How our society is becoming more heavily surveilled and unaware of the invasion of their privacy.