Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being watched? That your computer camera is hacked? Students at KO, do you ever get the feeling that faculty is constantly watching to dress code you?
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith knows these feelings all too well as his government is not only watching his actions, but monitoring his thoughts. Perhaps unaware, our surveillance in today’s society may be just as extreme as Winston’s, but we are all incognizant to it.
In “1984,” the Thought Police are a tactic used to keep citizens in check. They’re a constant reminder and fear to people that they must not think or go against the party. Not only does the police control the citizens through their thoughts, but telescreens are put up in corner to supervise one’s actions as well. Winston claims, “Always eyes watching you… Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed… no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
I know what you’re thinking: Winston’s society sounds way more extreme than our society today, but you may be surprised that they are all too similar.
Amazon Alexa is “Amazon’s intelligent voice recognition that allows you to voice-enable any device” (What is the purpose, Alexa?). In order for Alexa to work, a “wake word” must be called, in this case, that’s “Alexa.” Since Alexa is constantly listening for the wake word, what else do you think it’s listening to? Well I will tell you right now: all of your conversations. Even when it’s not actively being used, it may be recording every word that’s spoken in the room. Alexa is additionally connected to the user’s iPhone. Therefore, it has the ability to retrieve our messages, pictures, and contacts for government use and storage.
Aside from Alexa, let’s talk about our popular friend, Siri. Most of us, with the hold of a button, have Siri to make a call, look something up, or send a text message. A vital feature to many, Apple recently developed a feature where you could say “hey Siri,” and she would respond regardless if you had your phone in your hand, or if the device was across the room.
Similar to Alexa, Siri’s wake word is “hey Siri.” If your phone is constantly listening for the wake word, what else do you think it can hear? Once again, your conversations.
Feasibly most important, modern day devices have cameras installed to take pictures or FaceTime. How scary would it be knowing every time you opened your laptop or looked at your phone there was someone staring right at you, without you being able to see them back? Similarly, like Winston says, “There was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.” A tragic reality, hackers have the ability to break into one’s camera and “spy” on what’s in front of the screen without anyone knowing.
On a smaller scale, here at Kingswood Oxford, we’re being watched more than we think. The most dangerous spot on campus: the cafeteria. The cafeteria is the hot spot for receiving detentions. Take less than 5 steps, and the table of faculty has their eyes on you. Whether they are looking to dress code us, or move our backpacks into the entrance way, nobody is safe.
All jokes aside, if you think Orwell’s world of constant watching through technology is crazy and too far-fetched to become a reality, think again. While our modern day world doesn’t include Thought Police or telescreens, the technological devices that everyone has at the tip of their fingers are the exact means that our government watches us by.
This serves as a reminder to be hyper aware of our actions and what we do on our devices. Even when you think nobody is watching or listening, I can guarantee someone out there has their eyes on you.