Big Brother Is Watching You

Until recently,  in my part of Sicily, owning an iPhone was so cutting edge and high-tech that it was basically one step away from being an astronaut.

In a culture where speaking is impossible without bilateral full-arm gesticulation, it was fairly obvious that talking to people using just two thumbs would feel far too restrictive. Yet, as with many other things which I think my beloved Sicilians will never adapt to, they are actually starting to.

The problem is that I am not. Until December I was using this phone.

Ah! My first ever mobile phone without a pull-up aerial

I do realise that some of my blog readers are younger than this particular piece of equipment, and may need me to clarify that it is a mobile phone, not a house phone or a remote control for the gramophone. I was very happy with it. It was for talking and texting.

I listened to the wireless to keep up to date with world news. I took photos with an actual camera. I watched television on…. the television. I wrote (and am now writing) my blog on this:

1 Old Dell Computer

Then gradually everyone around me got new-fangled things which are not only phones but also toys. They started using them to send me messages which arrived on my phone looking as if they might be written in Korean. Sometimes I opened texts and wondered if my phone was broken.

For a long time I resisted. I don’t like social networking, I prefer to network socially.

By this I mean meeting human beings in the flesh, walking along the sea front together in the sunshine, drinking a coffee together, making eye contact while sharing a joke… And looking carefully at their faces while listening to them talk, so I can gauge every nuance of their facial expression. You can’t see that on sites like YouTwitFace.

Yet you cannot resist the changing times forever. When I go to London it feels like time travel. Eventually I accepted that I would have to update myself, so Hubby bought me a phone dating from the current century for Christmas.

This was when I fully realised how much our privacy is being invaded nowadays.

If you buy an iThing, everything you know, do and take an interest in is stored and analysed by Apple. They know what you look at online, for how long, and how often. They track where you are at all times using masts and GPS. If you are walking along the street they track where you go, from mast to mast. If you are walking with someone else, they will eventually figure this out, since you will  both be linking to the same masts at the same time. Then maybe, when you log onto Facebook, they will suggest a friend for you: it just may be that person you were talking to, even though you do not have them in your email address book, do not have their phone number, and have never connected to them via any social networking site. Yeah, that stalker who you were running away from, who would not stop following you down the road.

If you buy a phone using Andriod technology, you become Google’s bitch. Honestly, they own you. They read what you write inside your emails, and send that information to advertising agencies who then bombard you with what they think you might buy. They insist on “integrating” your Gmail, YouTube, and other Google owned accounts into one. You can no longer have a work email and a separate private identity on YouTube. Oh no, your boss must now be spoon-fed regular updates on which videos you particularly like on YouTube.

You can only escape this by getting a Windows phone and pimping yourself out to Microsoft instead. They store what you started writing in a text box and then cancelled, deciding it was too embarrassing, and they give it to Facebook, which has computer programmes to psycho-analyse your “self-censorship patterns.”

As always, children are the most vulnerable. Have you actually read the permissions you have to give when you download a game? They want access to literally everything you type into your phone – information which has absolutely nothing to do with making the game itself function on your phone.

Having given up their privacy altogether, everyone talks to everyone else using their little electronic toys. Teenagers sit in sad-looking groups ignoring each other, as they are all texting other people who are not there. They don’t look happy.

I call it techno-wanking. They pretend they are engaging in social intercourse, whilst they are actually all alone.

It says: “We don’t have Wi-Fi… amongst yourselves!!”

You should go and read, or re-read, Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell. His description of what it is like when Big Brother is watching you will freak you out. We are well and truly there.

“Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plate commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. but at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

Read the rest of chapter one here. If you dare.

36 thoughts on “Big Brother Is Watching You

  1. I can hardly believe that you really are connected to the internet with this old box of a computer! This is martyrdom! I just replaced my old 2006 Windows XP machine where I had difficulties to browse the internet, because modern pages take much traffic and computer power to load and display. Uaaah, your computer still has a *disk* drive!!! – Concerning the problem of being watched and heard everywhere I recently read a funny note: You just have to talk in dialect (e.g. Alemannic German, or: Sicilianu!) and all the automized speech recoginition systems fail!


    1. I had better brush up my Sicilian!!!
      My poor old computer is suffering from Senile Dementia, but I have given up trying to replace it. I got myself a decent laptop, but my husband uses it all the time. He uses it because he cannot get near his tablet, because our son uses it all the time. Which leaves me STILL with this old museum piece!!! Never mind. At least it works!


      1. How can you tell I run Windows XP?
        Anyway, whatever spying method you used!!!! 😉 Thanks for the warning!
        Now I have to decide if it is actuallyworth spending money on buying newer software for this old heap of junk…


  2. I am resisting. I have I use FB to communicate with close friends and famliy, but refuse to fill out all the information that Facebook demands every time I log in, telling me that I have “forgotten” to communicate everything about my education, home town, knicker size and god knows what else. Unfortunately there isn’t a “bog off and mind your own beeswax” option, so I just ignore it. I ise the “private navigation option” on my pooter to avoid being followed everywhere by indiscreet cookie monsters.


    1. I just register on all social networking sites with lots of lies. On facebook I am about 90 years old, I went to a Jewish primary school in Calcutta and I work as a product tester in a rubber factory. That way I know which advertisers each company sells my data to.


      1. same here, I am on FB in order to connect, but don’t like giving any info nor pictures…. you never know what they do with them, Big Brother….. 😦


    2. I use facebook to keep in touch with my family, all 4 members of it. (I think we are a dying breed) I also hate Facebook asking me which school I played truant from.

      I do like the Facebook adverts, do you use the Remove this advert button ? You can tell Facebook why you don’t want to see it any more, I wonder what the marketing manager thinks (Including Fiat Cars) when all their adverts are rejected because some strange Englishman finds them Sexually Explicit.

      PS, Dear Veronica, Mrs Sensible said “Please do not throw away your splendid computer, please donate it to her school”, It is newer than the ones she works with at the moment. Her kids still use floppy discs to store their work on because their computers don’t have USB ports.

      For all you young blog readers, according to Wiki “floppy disks are rare or non existent”. They should add ‘except in the Italian school system’


      1. I have used that button on several occasions, PN. I actually explain to them that I don’t need their advertising, whatever they put there. I recently saw a dating ad with the photo of a man who looks suspiciously like my hubby. That’s annoying. I think they’re looking for trouble.


      2. Start getting scared when Scooby Doo starts appearing.

        I need to change my age on Facebook, I am tired of seeing adverts for the new dynamic surgical truss and dentists in Croatia who can give you a new set of gnashers.


      3. I think it is a fabulous example of the efficiency of the Italian education system that they manage to teach both IT and history, simultaneously.

        By the way, I always click “reject” on every advertisement I ever see but they just keep coming back. Currently I am overwhelmed by ads for wigs, false hair pieces and hair restorers, because I have been Gmailing and hotmailling messages to myself containing the following keywords: Bald git, slaphead, hairpiece, receding hairline, fake hair, weave, chrome dome.

        I am getting tired of them and want ideas for my next self-selected Online Advertorial Theme. Any suggestions?


      4. Did you know they also use facial recognition software to match up the various different photos of yourself attached to different email, facebook and other accounts?
        I registered on YouTube ages ago as Monique Thunderthighs, featuring my lovely self in a white afro wig, and opened a Gmail account much later from a different IP address, using a different name and a picture of me in pink sunglasses.
        Within five minutes the biggers had matched them up, and every time I log onto YouTube they urge me to reveal my true identity as Penelope P. Knut (with a silent K) instead of remaining as Ms. Thunderthighs.
        Whilst I am impressed that their computers can recognise my marvellous bone structure under all circumstances I am bloody annoyed at the fact they don’t want me to identify myself as and when I personally choose.
        Whilst I understand that creating multiple online identities is very useful to criminals, especially pedophiles, I do not believe Google is doing this for the greater good because they have steadfastly refused to reveal the identities of people, who search for pedophile content using their search engine, to the UK government.


  3. I had a nightmare recently in which I had learned that a man married to one of my relatives committed a murder. After reporting it to the police, he realized I turned him in, and I had to run away to escape his revenge–but I could not use my phone, bank cards, passport, etc for fear he was tracking me electronically, and I was paranoid about video security cameras. All the more scary because these things are really used to track people down.


  4. Feel like we are sisters! Good, walk-together, talk-together, enjoy life-together sisters! My husband and I are fiercely resisting the lemming-like run on android phones and robotic-like communication devices. He would prefer to go back to the tin-can and string days when you had to actually communicate verbally.


  5. Techno-wanking – fabulous and so true! I see it all the time here – a table with 4 teenagers and none of them are speaking to each other 😉 And 1984 is a fantastic book – and scarily true I’d say!


  6. Congratulations. You wrote a post on Big Brother without even mentioning the NSA which has regular meetings with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Verizon etc promising them competitive privileges if they hand over all their data voluntarily. However, here’s a fascinating story about some forgotten heroes who tried to stop privacy intrusions and worse in the 1970’s and actually got away with it. I must say that while I’m old enough I don’t remember this case:


    1. That story was indeed fascinating.
      Though I don’t see why we should just pick on the NSA. The FBI, CIA and many other security agencies around the world gather this data with or without permission. I am sure they hack Internet servers all over the world to keep track of everything.


  7. I so agree with you!
    I use FB and Skype only because I am far away from a big chunk of family and friends.
    And it looks like a good way to publish/network for publishing writing is via the internet.
    I hate mobile phones (I think mine is just as antique as yours!!) and much prefer face to face conversations! There is something timeless about the craft of writing with a good quality pen and paper that connects you to the craft of writing.
    I have an ereader because it’s cheaper but I miss the tactile sensation of fondling a book.
    Opps that sounded a little kinky!! Sorry!!
    Big Brother should mind his own business!!


    1. I have an e-reader too and I love using it to read the thousands of books you can get online free. But if I pay for a book I always always buy the paper version! As you say, it’s an aesthetic/sensual pleasure as well as an intellectual one!
      Be as kinky as you like! I actually enjoy taking a secret sniff of newspaper print now and then!!
      One day someone will probably invent an app that gives of an inky smell… and a rustling sound each time you touch your reader screen to turn a page.


      1. I will always prefer a physical book to an ebook. I do ebooks simply because they are easy to receive and I love the idea of carrying a little library wherever I am, but it’s actually quite hard to keep track of them, I’ll often come across something I’d forgotten I had downloaded! I don’t even feel like I’m actually reading on my e-reader, I miss turning pages, skipping back and ahead.
        I don’t think they will ever be able to replace the personal interaction one has with their books, they are like people.
        Happy to have found another booklover!!


  8. I’ve always heard of big brother following our every move, but then I try to convince myself that they could never follow EVERYONE, can they? That they look for key words (in case you’re a terrorist) or suspicious web sites. Why would they ever want to follow someone as boring as me? (You can tell I’m really trying hard to convince myself…)!

    But I have to agree with you about the youth culture and their communication methods. I’m really worried that they won’t learn to communicate in person…only by texting or social media. I just saw this video (it came thru on Facebook…sorry), and it’s really a sad state of affairs.

    Technology is great for bringing people that are far apart together, but not when you are sitting next to each other or in the next cubicle over at work!

    I’m afraid the train has already left the station, though, and I don’t see how to fix it other than really being the heavy and telling your personal friends, kids, co workers to put that darned phone away while in your presence!!! We’ll have to become the phone police 🙂


    1. I do agree, there isn’t a human taking note of what we do unless it is something illegal that makes us stick out above the parapt. Yet there are computerised systems all over the place which automatically analyse our data and pump advertisements at us out of a database, “feed” selected information to us (I hate that word in that context) and so on.
      That film was so horrible, mainly because you could make an identical film in any city in the world in about half an hour just by filming what you see going on around you.
      Luckily for me, most of my friends are as old fashioned technophobes as I am. I used to teach classes of teenagers and I always made them turn their phones off during my lessons and leave them in a row on the teacher’s deak. At the end of the lesson, some of them actaully said to me it was really nice and “different” to NOT look at their phone for 2 hours.


  9. It is scary to think every move you make is been watched but I believe it has been done before as well and internet is making it earlier. I worry about it sometimes but I still use all the social media so I am sure they have heaps of record about me already.
    Regarding the smart phone, I think you get used to it. Now I can’t imagine my life without it. I wrote about the similar stuff here before.
    Enjoy your new phone 🙂
    Take care.


  10. Whoa!!!! I could not believe this part: “They store what you started writing in a text box and then cancelled, deciding it was too embarrassing, and they give it to Facebook, which has computer programmes to psycho-analyse your “self-censorship patterns.”
    That is really creepy.
    Great, really interesting article! Big Brother is indeed watching.


    1. Yes, was amazed it is even possible. I could not believe they really store and analyse that stuff. I actually suspect there may be a law or legal precedent which could arguably mean it is an illegal invasion of privacy.
      It is certainly really creepy, as you say.


    1. Ha hahaaaaaaaa! You made me laugh so much I almost blew tea out of my nose!!!
      I think a techno-wanking session reaches its grand finale when the phone gives you three warning beeps, and the battery goes completey flat. Before another techno-wanking session can take place, the phone needs a little bit of time to get charged up with new energy and power.


So, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s