Big Brother is watching

In the 1960s, “Big Brother” in the novel “1984” horrified me. In the 1980s I sighed with relief that the perpetual peeping Tom had not manifested himself. But in 2007, I just shrug off his the proven prevalence.
Big Brother is watching.

He uses a couple dozen orbiting satellites to determine the location, speed and direction while noting the time with the Global Positioning System. An episode of the television series “Monk” centers around a GPS in a semi-truck. The mystery unravels when the detective realizes that the truck’s GPS retains information from the last 5,000 miles.

Using the GPS, Isaac Daniel, a 38-year-old engineer, developed footwear with a tiny GPS chip – and many welcomed the innovation. They, like him, want to find a child or elderly loved one – if they wander off. Our comfort at being able to track kin, includes our thrill with Big Brother’s ability to follow us around when we purchase the GPS option for our new cars, have a veterinarian insert a GPS chip in our pets or fork over cash for clothing with a GPS chip.

No one blinks an eye when Big Brother’s name is GPS – the means to aid navigation, map-making, land surveying, commerce and other scientific – because it means we can find lost loved ones or get help when we are stranded on the roadside. We tend to forget that Big Brother is also watching when we just want to slip away for a quiet weekend by ourselves.
Big Brother watches every time I pull out my credit card. I know because Big Brother called me once after an extremely unusual week when I ran up charges in cities 150-200 miles north, south, east and west of El Dorado. Big Brother considered my purchases potentially purloined use of my card.
It’s nice to know the credit card company triggers an alert for unusual activity. But, it also means I have Big Brother watching over my shoulder when I finally find the perfect gift for a loved one. A gift, I really don’t want anyone to know about right now.

It is helpful when my purchases on can be quickly transacted on-line, but do I really want Amazon’s Big Brother to retain the information indefinitely and send me helpful e-mails of other products because “you bought something like this in the past.”

Not even a very personal sales clerk would know as much as my friendly computerized Big Brother who tracks purchases every time I use a store card to realize the sale prices at the grocery store, the fabric shop, the gas station or the department store.

I would call on the cell phone and complain to my husband that “Big Brother won’t stop looking at me,” but the cell phone companies have a record of every call received or made – a record that includes the time, the length of the call and the point of origin. Land lines at least keep their mouth shut about local phone calls.

If I develop a phobia from too much Big Brother and need professional help, the visit, the medication and the diagnosis will be stored in a computer file – which I am assured will be protected to preserve my privacy. But, hey, it’s still a computer file and accessible to any medical provider, insurance company or hacker worth his salt.

In a city miles from here, Big Brother watches over my shoulder as I work hidden away in my cubicle. Without my permission he can read my company sponsored e-mail, read what I am writing and make adjustments to my computer as I use it.
The horrifying predictions of “1984” have come to pass. Big Brother is watching and we accept his obscure, prevalent presence in our lives with a yawn.