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Science Nonfiction Essay

1203 words - 5 pages

You are being watched. Your phone calls are listened to, your internet usage is monitored, and almost everything you do is tracked. The technological invasion of privacy that takes place in 1984 by George Orwell is a realistic warning about life today, which can be supported by current technology, potential technology, and the real-life “Brotherhood” movements in the world today.
Although not prevalent knowledge, the electronics portrayed in 1984 are already being used to violate civil rights in 2011. For example, in the United Kingdom, ironically where George Orwell lived, the BBC claims that there are currently over 4.2 million closed circuit television cameras – about one for every fourteen people. In a passage in the book, Winston explains that “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of […] having something to hide” (62). While obviously there is no one barking at the citizens of the United Kingdom through these security cameras, the potential is still there as the number of cameras installed constantly increases. Another example of current technology similar to that of Oceania is RFID, or radio-frequency identification, which is currently implemented in passports, transportation payments, and credit cards, among other devices. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, these small chips can be scanned from more than 69 feet away, and besides being used by the government, they can reveal personal information to anyone who breaks through the weak security. In 1984, Winston Smith fears that he will be tracked and caught when visiting the slums one night: “This was the second time in three weeks that he had missed an evening at the Community center: a rash act, since you could be certain that the number of your attendances were carefully checked” (81). With the privacy and security concerns posed by RFID tracking, our society could be tracked as closely as the “comrades” were. Lastly, the PATRIOT Act of 2001, proposed by former president George W. Bush, is a major threat to human rights in the United States. This act expands the ability of the government to conduct surveillance, eliminates government accountability in certain situations, and authorizes law enforcement officers to enter homes without a warrant. Sound familiar? Clearly, the electronics that are described in 1984 are not simply fairy tales and reflect current privacy invasions in the world today.
A second threat to privacy today that parallels the story of 1984 is the potential technology that is being developed. First of all, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does full-body scans of fliers in airports. Although this does not curb all smuggling and bomb threats on airplanes, it invades the rights of United States citizens, who have to...

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