Opinion: Society created Big Brother not the government

Big brother may be watching us, but unlike George Orwell’s novel 1984 it’s not the government that has brought this about, rather we have. 

That’s right, the general public, we brought this on ourselves! When Zuckerberg and his colleagues founded Facebook in 2004 it was just a platform for university students and not the global phenomenon it is today.  

When we sign up and provide out details and then begin sharing thoughts, images and information, it’s not just to our close knit family and friends but, to a wider community of people we’ve met on travels, acquaintances that we don’t really know that well and companies trying to compete for our spending habits.  This “sharing” pattern encompasses twitter, Instagram and a whole plethora of social media apps that encourage us to share our life with the wider world. 

In affect this has turned into a voluntary sharing of personal information that we could possibly not have imagined 15 years ago. If the Cambridge Analytica fiasco wasn’t a wake up call to illustrate that we are willingly giving our information away based on a simple “I agree” check box when signing up to these platforms, then what will it take to see that we as a society have caused our own actions to bring about “Big Brother”? Not that Cambridge Analytica was our doing, we know for a fact that the entire fiasco was a breech of privacy and there were repercussions for those parties involved. 

Moreover, we delight in reality television shows like Google Box, The Kardashian franchise, The Bachelor and the like that encourage an intrusive look into the lives of people (granted that most of it is hyped up by producers for ratings). These shows are just another means of allowing society to be monitored in a way where people are brought into homes. Yet if it had been us given the chance to let cameras in our houses most would shy away for privacy reasons. 

My argument is that we without putting a lot of thought into it have allowed our privacy to slip. We use social media apps every day and we’re encouraged to do so by our peers, work places, and so forth. We check in to places, we tag people in photos and we hit the “I Agree” button without reading the terms and conditions to games that require our personal data.  We know when Susan and Dave have broken up, made up, gotten married, and had an argument, all at the touch of our fingertips.

However, when we are asked to download an app the government has developed- I’ll use the COVIDSafe app as an example, we cried invasion of privacy. The COVIDSafe app that the Australian government released is a measure to protect Australians and advise of interactions with persons affected by COVID-19 when you’re out an about. But checking in to places through social channels, being tagged in photos or turning on your phone tracker is OK?

It’s kind of ironic considering a simple Google search on our names would reveal far more information than what the COVIDSafe app has asked us to provide. Not to mention the data that is collected for the app is then locked up tightly with strict government regulations and access protocols and deleted after a certain period of time (21 days to be exact), yet we have a whole timeline of our movements for everyone to see on our social platforms.

Whilst Orwell’s 1984 portrayed far worse invasions of privacy and a government that used the intrusive means to conform a society, could it not be argued that there are similarities in what people are sharing that encourages the “Big Brother” phenomenon to begin to unveil itself because we — the general public, have brought it about ourselves? 

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