Culture

'1984' — on Steroids

Privacy is dead. It's death is best described as a homicide committed by tech titans.

Arnold Ahlert · Nov. 29, 2018

“Big Brother is Watching You.” —George Orwell, 1984

Privacy is dead. It’s death is best described as a homicide committed by tech titans, whose power and wealth are unprecedented, and millions of American accomplices whose insatiable quest to be noticed and validated — epitomized by the now-ubiquitous “like” button — has overcome any sense of foreboding.

In Orwell’s novel, three main components enabled The Party’s totalitarian control: surveillance, enforcement, and coercion. In 2018, the level of surveillance — exactly the right word for the terabytes of personal data acquired by Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google — makes Orwell’s Big Brother look benign by comparison.

“Google, noticing that people would leave the search engine to roam the Internet, came up with a browser, Chrome,” explains columnist Kyle Smith. “Now everything you do online through Chrome is logged by Google. But Google wants to know what you’re doing even when you’re not online. Hence: Android. As soon as you log on, Android uploads a complete picture of everywhere your phone has been that day.”

Everywhere, whether you like it or not.

And they’re not done, not by a long shot. “Patents recently issued to Google provide a window into their development activities,” columnist Phillips Baker writes. “While it’s no guarantee of a future product, it is a sure indication of what’s of interest to them. What we’ve given up in privacy to Google, Facebook, and others thus far is minuscule compared to what is coming if these companies get their way.”

Columnist Sidney Fussel describes those patents in bone-chilling detail. “In the first patent, Google imagines devices that would scan and analyze the surroundings of your home, then offer you content based on what they detect,” he writes. “According to the patent, the smart cameras in such a device could, for example, recognize Will Smith’s face on a T-shirt on the floor of a user’s closet. After matching this analysis against your browser history, the device might then say aloud, ‘You seem to like Will Smith. His new movie is playing in a theater near you.’”

Patent number two? “The second patent proposes a smart-home system that would help run the household, using sensors and cameras to restrict kids’ behavior,” he explains. “Parents could program a device to note if it overhears ‘foul language’ from children, scan internet usage for mature or objectionable content, or use ‘occupancy sensors’ to determine if certain areas of the house are accessed while they’re gone — for example, the liquor cabinet. The system could be set to ‘change a smart lighting system color to red and flash the lights’ as a warning to children or even power off lights and devices if they’re grounded.”

Sadly, it is likely many parents, especially of the “helicopter” variety, would embrace such appalling intrusiveness. Yet what happens to children who grow up in an environment where the evisceration of privacy and trust is normalized?

The increasing infantilization of younger Americans seeking the refuge of safe spaces, and trigger warnings is impossible to ignore. Yet what should frighten decent Americans the most is their increasing infatuation with suppressing “hate speech,” because the nation’s tech titans are on board with accommodating that suppression every step of the way. Earlier this week Twitter permanently banned writer Meghan Murphy from its platform because she opined that women cannot be men, and committed the “sin” known as “dead naming,” as in referring to a trans person by his or her legal, or birth name.

This term and others are contained in the “Gender Nation Glossary,” an effort engendered by the Rainbow Mafia to define the parameters of acceptable speech — reminiscent of 1984’s Newspeak.

Which brings us to enforcement. “A definition of totalitarianism might be the saturation of every facet of daily life by political agendas and social-justice messaging,” explains Victor Davis Hanson who envisions a future America “warped by an all-encompassing ideology of coerced sameness.”

It is a coerced sameness best exposed by Smith, who typed “top races Republican” into his Google search engine, “and the word ‘races’ got a squiggly underline suggesting I had misspelled the word,” he writes. “Beneath it ran Google’s helpful correction: ‘top racist Republican.’”

What did “top races Democrats” engender? Before he completed spelling the word Democrat, he reveals that “two lines below ran the following little hint: ‘best Democratic races to donate to.’”

But it’s the Russians trying to manipulate America’s elections?

“Between them, Google and Facebook are effectively a duopoly with unprecedented influence over American lives and minds,” Smith adds. “The federal government is, meanwhile, a heavy user of Google products, and has shown little interest in oversight. We’ve only begun to take notice of the way the state is merging with the most powerful corporations.”

It is a merger that will firmly establish the coercion part of the totalitarian equation. Communist China offers great insight into how it will be realized. “China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident,” Bloomberg News reports. “The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020.”

Hanson warns, “When you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, you are on stage, and a progressive synopticon is everywhere around you.” America is now a nation where “the messaging is all the same — the old creaking brontosauruses are heading for the tar pits, and being replaced by far cooler, better, and smarter youthful raptors — even as the society grows ever more callous, indebted, factional, and dysfunctional, from the now normal tarmac nightmares to going into the DMV,” he adds. “It is hard to find a TV sitcom, a song, or a billboard that is not in your face about something.”

In your face? On Tuesday, Yahoo News reported that researchers working for European Space Agency (ESA) and MIT teamed up with sanitation specialists and created a toilet called the “FitLoo.” It is equipped with sensors capable of examining human waste for disease — and beaming that info to a user’s phone or directly to one’s general practitioner.

In short, the state of one’s feces could be part of one’s personal database. And if the FitLoo is installed in public restrooms?

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal revealed Amazon will mine patient medical records, stating, “The move is the latest by a big technology company into health care, an industry where it sees opportunities for growth.”

Will the nation fight back, or mindlessly embrace the all-encompassing ambitions of our virtue-signaling, data-mining, privacy-crushing would-be overlords? Ambitions best exemplified by a quote, courtesy of Google CEO Eric Schmidt. “Google policy on a lot of these things,” Schmidt says, “is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

Not quite. “You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.” —George Orwell, 1984

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