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The Issue of Personal Privacy in Orwell’s 1984 and Today

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Nineteen Eighty-Four reveals a world where personal privacy is illusory. The author created a bleak manifestation of a dystopian future where the danger of domestic control is prophetic. Under this fictional totalitarian government, citizens were constantly scrutinized, deceived, and pressured by the idea of “Big Brother”. Although these features could easily be used to emphasize the stark differences of George Orwell’s Oceania and present-day United States of America, if you delve further into Nineteen Eight-Four and its illustration of Oceania, you will discover that there are many similarities to be found. One, in particular, is the use of technology, and as Orwell predicted, people today have given up their right to privacy like Oceania’s citizenry, allowing the government to continue to monitor and control them.

Throughout George Orwell’s novel, technology is an essential weapon used to examine its populace. Presently, the government of Oceania titled “the Party” blatantly surveilled its citizens using a device known as the telescreen, which can detect facial expression and movement. “With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end”. Through incessant surveillance, nobody is free. Everything, from actions to thoughts, is monitored to determine anti-Party behavior. As a result, people’s lives and individuality are destroyed. In fact, the protagonist Winston transformed from a rebellious member to another brainwashed devotee. Technology limited people’s knowledge and freedom. Throughout the novel, telescreens serve as a symbol of the government’s omnipresent control. In fact, microphones were also used throughout Oceania to identify who and what a person said. “There was always the danger of concealed microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized”. Yet, Winston and his mistress Julia still tried to continue their tryst; however, nothing is private in the repressive world of 1984. This wired society has no laws to protect them, and they live with the constant reminder that “Big Brother is Watching You”. The endless power of the Party can only be sustained by technology. Not only does this novel describe a future where government abuses technological advancement, it also cautions what could happen if it becomes too dominant.

In today’s world, privacy is almost impossible to possess as a result of constant improvements in technology. Currently, people share almost anything online, making intrusions from the government and corporations almost acceptable. Intelligence agencies continue to gather, document, and control our lives through a vast network of surveillance. Like the “telescreens” and “microphones” from Orwell’s novel, televisions, cameras, and satellites from our modern society can watch and observe. Citizens are living with a false sense of privacy. In fact, the internet contains and stores all information accessed from any device, and nothing is permanently deleted. To illustrate, government agencies can record conversations, take photos, and track individuals without us knowing. “It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time”. Anything, from your current location to what you posted five years ago, can be obtained due to technology. Consequently, technology not only monitors what we do, it also controls our daily lives. From “helpful recommendations” to social media, citizens are being influenced and perceptions are being changed. “Privacy, he said, was a very valuable thing”. Yet, we allow this world to be controlled and allow ourselves to be scrutinized. Technology seems to be taking over our lives, and we’re letting it happen.

However, compared to Orwell’s oppressive world where the future of technology created only an omnipresent government, technology of the twenty-first century has positively impacted the nation considerably. Specifically, how people all over the world can communicate with one another and stay connected. In 1984, “the Party” banned relationships between individuals; but, people today can forge friendships and talk freely with social media. Thus, technology, if used the right way, can benefit society rather than damage it.

To conclude, George Orwell’s novel is a prediction of the future and what it could become if we continue to be ignorant of how our government abuses technology. In both worlds, it is impossible to escape the various ways in which an authority surveils us. Technology is a tool that can be used for the greater good or a weapon employed by a totalitarian regime. It’s always improving, and if we’re not careful, our future may shape into that of “Big Brother”.

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