“1984” is a novel by George Orwell, set in dystopian Londonunder the rule of the totalitarian government named simply “The Party” and takes place after a cataclysmic nuclear war that decimated the planet. The Party creates a terrifying living environment for its members in which it is impossible to have any privacy and enforces its will through the use of technology. In every home there is a “telescreen”, a version of a flat screen television with a built in camera and microphone to observe the occupants and where the telescreens cannot see there are hidden microphones. This world is one where every action and thought is monitored and analyzed for any anti-Party actions, thoughts or tendencies and if any are expected you can be arrested and “reeducated” at anytime.
The world of “1984” is what everyone wants to avoid and is the last place anyone would want to live. A life where the government and your peers know everything that you do, good or bad and there exists no sense of privacy of information. This is the world that we are slipping into, and the worst part is: we are doing it willingly. Although, without the torture and totalitarian government.
If you compare the amount of information that people willingly share in the generation previous to ours (given you were born in the late 1980’s or later) you would notice a staggering difference. This difference has arisen as a direct result of the introduction of the Internet into the lives of nearly everyone in the world. Social networking and the seemingly nearly unstoppable incline in power and portability of technology and the trend of the cost of this technology.
First of all, the Internet has allowed the almost instantaneous connection of people anywhere on the planet. Before it’s invention the spread of information was limited to the speed and coverage of telephone services and the slow speed of the post. The Internet has provided a means for news and information to arrive at a speed that would be unthinkable forty years ago. This has allowed for the rapid diffusion of ideas and helpful information that it can be considered one of the greatest inventions of mankind. However, there is a dark side to this seemingly glistening cloud, personal information can be spread much easier and with the press of a button your information can be out there for anyone to see and because of the Internet’s instantaneous nature there can be nothing you can do about it.
Facebook allows users to deactivate their accounts however, does not allow them to easily and completely erase their accounts content from its servers and requires sending a request to the employees at Facebook. Even though your private information would not be directly available to users on the Internet, Facebook is still hoping that some day you might return and reactivate your account.
These websites also campaigns for users to “update their status” or “tweet” constantly and share what they are doing at all times with their friends the rest of the internet who can view your profile. In this lies the willingness of society now to share everything they are doing with everyone and creates a world similar to “1984” in which everyone knows what you are doing at every moment. Introductions of tablet PCs, the ever-widening availability of smart phones that do not even require an internet connection to post status updates, pictures, even videos with audio. With the release of a new portable technology, such as the recent release of the new iPad drastically reduces the price of the current version making it even more affordable and available to multitudes of different people. Even these technologies seem to go beyond what was available in “1984” in their portability and abilities to subvert privacy.
In order to avoid a world absent privacy like the one presented in George Orwell’s dystopian prediction of the future than society needs to take a step back and realize how much information they share on the internet. This and knowing how this information is used is critical in understanding how to use these services and what information should be shared and what should be kept private.