Surveillance

It is now impossible in the 21st century to escape any form of surveillance. From simple attendance records to the recording of financial transactions on a daily basis, we are constantly being watched in some form or another. By living our lives complacently day to day we submit to this surveillance without knowing it. These issues have come into the fore front in recent years due to an ever-growing list of evidence that our governments like to keep a close eye on our activity online and in real life. The most noteworthy of information regarding this coming into public light was when Edward Snowden a former CIA employee leaked classified information from the NSA (National Security Agency) in 2013. Snowden revealed that the NSA was involved in numerous surveillance programmes alongside other organisations, telecommunication companies and European governments. Due to this Snowden is now seen as traitor by some and a hero by others. This has fuelled numerous debates since then about the role of governments in surveillance of its citizens and whether the practice is ethical.

This also links back to George Orwell and his concept of Big Brother in his literature. The antagonist of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) , the iconic Big Brother, sees all and knows all. He is at the centre of a repressive regime that controls the population. Orwell’s novel depicts a society without privacy and freedom, but with absolute state control: “Big Brother is watching you,” as the famous posters say in the story’s version of London. Since its publication in 1949, Orwell’s novel has been the textbook example of a totalitarian society with all its fear, repression, and horror Extract from Albrechtslund, A. (2013). ‘New Media and Changing Perceptions of Surveillance’ in J. Hartley, J. Burgess and A. Bruns (eds) A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

The world that Orwell wrote about in 1949 seems to be eerily similar to what perhaps we are moving towards in 2016. Now we are aware that governments around the world in particular the USA and European governments are in essence spying on us, mass surveillance of populations has become something that is very real and tangible to most people in their daily lives. We now move around every day with smartphones and tablets that track our every move. Perhaps Orwell’s version of London is slowly becoming a reality. Some may suggest that this is only a natural progression however that is occurring due to advances in technology. However, this only raises more questions about our morals and ethics as humans. Are we really willing to give up our lives and submit to surveillance in the name of technology? Should we really give in to what some may say will only lead to a totalitarian state which seeks only to control the masses? As we move into the future questions such as these will only continue to spark debates surrounding the topic of surveillance and how to deal with it. Or will the masses stay wilfully ignorant as surveillance continues to grow across the world?