In a previous blog I mentioned The Panopticon, so thought I should explain it a little more, with the idea of it is becoming more and more relevant as we give away more and more of our data. Big Brother can indeed watch us.

“Big Brother is Watching You.” – George Orwell1984

“Just because you’re paranoid
Don’t mean they’re not after you.” 
Nirvana, Nevermind

The Panopticon was a prison designed by a philosopher and social theorist in the late 18th Century. The prison was designed as a circular structure with a watch tower in its centre. Think of Wellington’s “cake tin” stadium and throw a big watch tower in the middle. From the watch tower through an elaborate array of mirrors, guards could observe every inmate without being seen themselves. The prisoners could never be sure if they were being watched or not, therefore, the concept was that the prisoners would be convinced they were always under surveillance. In the end it was never built due to a variety of reasons (although a close example was built in Cuba in the 1920s) but the idea of the all-seeing eye could not be more prominent now.

In the current world of CCTV, facial recognition software, tracking devices and identity cards (well, not yet but keep your eye on RealMe) we are certainly able to be surveilled even if we’re not currently under surveillance. Combine this with the amount of data we give away across social networks, plus points cards, competitions we enter and it’s a recipe for … something.

And what is that something? Where are we headed? What does it mean that we’re all better connected: Are we safer, or are we headed into Orwell’s 1984?

I don’t have any answers and this isn’t a subject I sit around brooding on, but every now and then I’ll take a few moments and wonder, with all this personal data we’re giving away, how will it bite us?


(Author’s note: I’m generally a happy-go-lucky kind of character and blame this slip into paranoia on listening to Vikram Kumar, CEO of MEGA at a recent conference).

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