Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Not just Big Brother - we're all watching you

Connected (The weekly technology and science download from Electronic Telegraph) Text-only version Thursday 10 June 1999

Not just Big Brother - we're all watching you

Information technology and poor legislation have brought Big Brother to life, says Simon Davies

FIFTY years ago this week, a bizarre and terrifying new novel went on sale in bookshops across the world. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four caught the imagination of millions, and in the process catapaulted "Big Brother" into the international lexicon. For socialists and libetarians alike, the phrase became short-hand for the power of the state, and the fear of intrusion by authority.

For the digital generation, large computer systems have begun to represent the all-seeing, all-knowing Big Brother. An adult in the developed world is located, on average, in 300 databases. As these converge with the telecommunications spectrum, nearly everyone becomes entangled in a web of surveillance enveloping everything from bank accounts to email.