Sunday, 1 May 2011

Watch out; Big Brother is watching

Readers of the blog are perhaps too young to have read George Orwell's 1984. Its a fictional novel about a totalitarian future state where every individual is completely monitored and controlled. In fact the term Big Brother, originated in this novel. Well, here's news for you. Big Brother has indeed arrived - just 27 years late.

If you hadn't heard, both Apple and Google are accused of recording and monitoring cellphone locations. Since none of us would move 4 inches from our cellphone henceforth in our lives, surely BB knows where we are and what we are doing. Privacy advocates are up in arms.

I come from a different point of view. Is Google and Apple mad enough to want to be tracking my colourful life. That I leave for office exactly at 8.04 in the morning. That I spend the whole day like an idiot in the office. And that I come straight back home. And then go nowhere else. Leading a totally colourless life.  Earth shattering information.

Take Gils for instance. We don't need Big Brother to tell us that he spends 2 hours one way commuting to his office and that on weekends he is seen at Devikala watching the latest Tamil flick. In between, he is never more than 2 metres from his mother - constantly nagging her for treats from the kitchen. Or take Hopfrog. That he is cooling his heels at home waiting for the snows to melt after which he can be seen somewhere on the PCT - he has very helpfully posted a map of his thru hike route. 

No, I cannot allow  the geeks at Apple and Google discover my highly exciting life. I am therefore going on a drive in a  random direction for an hour - I can imagine BB, puzzling as to what I am upto now. I shall also switch off the mobile now and then to fool them into believing that I am catching flights regularly. I shall download some app or the other than will confuse BB into believing that I am actually located in Ougadougou - if you are wondering where that is, its in Burkina Faso. I shall also pass by some many starred hotels and stand outside the gate, so that BB believes I am fine dining with a gorgeous member of the female species. When Akon lands in town, as he did a week or so ago, I shall lend my phone to a much tattooed, ear pierced, red streaky haired individual of indeterminate sex so that BB thinks I am cool going to such events.

Cut to Steve Jobs and Larry Page, They are presiding over an emergency Board Meeting, convened to debate on what I am upto. Why am I leading such a breathtaking life, when they themselves are not. Their own cell phone tracking is showing that they spend 14 hours at the office and 10 hours at home. How can I be having such fun.  How do I manage to be in Ougadougou and in Marathahalli on the same day. The mystery has to be solved.

Expecting to met an emissary of BB quite soon. Meanwhile I'm off to Toscano,  to lunch with a Prince - I can imagine BB scratching its head wondering what a teetotaler is doing in a wine bar ?

27 comments:

Sandhya Sriram said...

Ha Ha Ha.... only you can make a full length business topic a sunday refresher!!

The line of privacy is a very dynamic one, I am not sure if some years back, someone would have agreed that whatever website you would browse would be flagged against your IP and tracked. now it is considered normal.

these things keep changing definition and context according to time.

As long as i get to know when Ramesh is in front of his PC, about to post his blog through some notification, and so i get the priviledge of being first to comment, i am happy to have this tracking :-)

Sandhya Sriram said...

Ha Ha Ha.... only you can make a full length business topic a sunday refresher!!

The line of privacy is a very dynamic one, I am not sure if some years back, someone would have agreed that whatever website you would browse would be flagged against your IP and tracked. now it is considered normal.

these things keep changing definition and context according to time.

As long as i get to know when Ramesh is in front of his PC, about to post his blog through some notification, and so i get the priviledge of being first to comment, i am happy to have this tracking :-)

Sandhya Sriram said...

Ha Ha Ha.... only you can make a full length business topic a sunday refresher!!

The line of privacy is a very dynamic one, I am not sure if some years back, someone would have agreed that whatever website you would browse would be flagged against your IP and tracked. now it is considered normal.

these things keep changing definition and context according to time.

As long as i get to know when Ramesh is in front of his PC, about to post his blog through some notification, and so i get the priviledge of being first to comment, i am happy to have this tracking :-)

Sandhya Sriram said...

in am also learning to mislead the big brother - see i made you think you got 4 comments - when you just logged in :-)

The truth of course is - you know that anyways.

Vishal said...

Oh, I am also scratching my head wondering what will you do in a wine bar ;-)

Monitoring or no monitoring, users should exercise reasonable level of judgement before publishing anything into public domain. Having said this, I am not sure how would it benefit them if they know that I had chana with pyaaz and nimbu on a Sunday morning... :)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Ha Ha - thanks for upping the comment numbers :)

@Vishal - What else - watching somebody else drink wine ! Did you really have chana with pyaz and nimbu today morning ??:)

Hopfrog said...

Lol, thanks for the plug. I file the media's hubbub over this as 'Much ado about nothing'. The tracking can be turned off, and if one is the type to fret over such things, they are probably the type that puts into the effort to learn how. Its not hidden. Not to mention I always laugh a bit to myself when I hear people throw conspiracies out about being monitored by unseen forces. If people fully understood an organization's (be it public or private) desire to squeeze every penny, they would realize that no organization is going to spend the needed to resources to 'monitor' us.

I was big brother, for a brief period. I spent 3 years working the eye in the sky at Caesars Palace here in Las Vegas. The surveillance room was tucked away down a hall and was off limits to everyone. However, every once in a while we would allow an exec to bring in a vip, and universally they were shocked to see 3 guys sitting up there. There were a couple of thousand cameras all over the casino and reactions ranged from "I thought 25 guys were up here" to "I thought there was someone for every camera!". Lol, we had to fight just to get basic office supplies because we did not 'generate revenue', forget about more getting more manpower that wasn't 'generating revenue'. I feel pretty confident that this same philosophy exists in all forms of big brother, with the exception of a few, few, that are monitoring threat level nare do wells. We assisted several government agencies (use your imagination, yep those) in monitoring some of their targets, and I can say without a doubt, budget concerns limited even what they could do.

Vishal said...

Not really Ramesh, one of my friends had it this morning and he shared this info. on facebook, thought a perfect example to boot the topic of your post :) :)

zeno said...

Well, I do agree that there is nothing much to fret about the data gathering, more esp when people flaunt their where abouts of going and coming back to Loo etc etc in FB. [No kidding, i have seen a few such status messages]

But with the data that is collected, and a proper analytical software, much info could be gathered and put to some good use[The definition or interpretation of good and use differs]

@Hopfrog's comments was much insightful, more esp the budget concerns![Most of the hollywood movies usually show only one or two guys in the surveillance room]

gils said...

cyber stalking :D :D tht too me?!!! omg :D :D if there is any way to measure the extent of idleness...this wud shoot out of the range :D

Venkat said...

if u live in marathahalli and travel to ur office through kaadugodi regularly, & if i can count number of vechiles movement like this on various parts without deputing 100 people for a month to count, i can easily design efficient roads for your future or current use. – see.. this is good for people.

If Hotel Channa Bhavan comes to know that Mr.A,B,C eats channa regularly, then they can distrub him directly in the name of promo when he is in meeting. – this is good for business people.

Somehting is good for somebody untill ethics is followed.

Ramesh said...

@Hopfrog - Brilliant point. Corporates , or even the government, can hardly use the relevant data they collect. Fat chance of them actually doing surveillance on you and me. If they can manage to do it on Osama, that will be good enough.

@Vishal - Eeks - the sort of things that get posted on Facebook !!

@zeno - anybody who's on Facebook must stop moaning about privacy.

@gils - beware gils - you have been spotted with the NRI girl a bit too often :):)

@Venkat - As Hopfrog says, there's not much chance of such data even being looked at.

Anonymous said...

there is some value in this BB thinking....... perhaps they could help me keep track of my two teenage daughters ! - or at least allow me to give my daughters the impression I can track them - day or night !!!!

Ummm.... on second thought..... maybe its best I don't know !!!

Regards Trevor

Vishal said...

Those are the side effects of social networking sites... almost anything from daily chores are posted. Very disinteresting...

RamMmm said...

Great Britain's big brother program supposedly deploying the state of the art to detect threats via cameras in almost all public places, recognize faces in a crowd et al, and all in the name of national security. That is a problem. Not these new products where you proclaim to the world by volunteering implicitly. How many of us read the Terms and conditions of the software that we install? At least, I don't. :)

Hopfrog said...

@Zeno, Your more perceptive than most!

@RamMmm, Facial recognition software. If there was one question I could guarantee that would come up each time their was a tour of our room, it was "Hey, do you guys have that facial recognition stuff?". We did, it was practically worthless, in its current incarnations at least. We used to laugh about the Travel Channel specials that would demonstrate how effective it was. In particular, one of those episodes was done with the exact software, heck, same desk, that I used to use at Planet Hollywood. They made it look like amazing stuff cause they basically rigged it so one of their crew member's pics came up right away.

The reality is you could put a camera on a 20 year old woman, the thing would chug through the database for 10 minutes, and spit back 100 pics of 80 year old men. It was state of the art.

In theory, if they work out the kinks it could be amazing stuff and I personally do not see it as a problem at all. In working with some of those agencies I alluded to, they were only using manpower and resources to track bad people.... very bad people. They are doing it in the name of 'national security', because quite frankly, that really is all they are using it for.

I have no experience working with Britain's big brother people, but I would bet my bottom dollar that their concerns and the focus of their cooperating agencies are no different than the ones I have worked with here. Going back to my earlier point, the resources are just not their for big brother to invade people's lives as much as they may think. They've only got the time and money to deal with people that, trust me, you want them keeping an eye on!

hemarao said...

Ha ha! Good one! How wild and interesting can your imagination get! You should start doing atleast 50% of what you have said and have fun!
Ougadougou-ouch ouch ouch..where is that? oh.. its in Burkina Faso....now where is THAT??:-)

Hopfrog said...

@hemarao, Next to Togo.

J said...

Interesting debate where I find myself on either side depending on my mood that day. Nice comments by Hopfrog. I tend to agree that the corporations probably dont care at all about what I am doing. I always wonder what people are up to that they dont want discovered. That being said, the part that I am uncomfortable with is that over time, as they track my movements, (Ramesh, I hate to admit this but my daily activities rival yours in excitement value), they will want to start selling stuff to me. I have a strong dislike for targeted ads - I guess it is unnerving to find that some computer has a better understanding of my likes and dislikes than I do. Also if Google were to hand over this information to law enforcement (however low the probability), then there are all kinds of prickly issues that are definitely worth addressing.

Ramesh said...

@Trevor - Ha Ha. Its best not to know !!!

@Vishal - Not a fane of such sites at all

@RamMmm - Yes, the UK has the most extensive camera surveillance system in the world. But as Hopfrog says, its all directed at terrorists. They have better things to do than watch over you and me.

@Hema - can I start by taking you out to dinner please :):)

@J - I made light of the issue, but seriously I do think such monitoring should be banned. But the real comfort is, as Hopfrog said, nobody really has the means to be using all this data. See how businesses don;t even use obvious stuff. The gap between data and information is huge.

hemarao said...

Awww...sure! My pleasure!

hemarao said...

@ Hopfrog - Thanks..now I shall not ask where that is...:)

Deepa said...

Look how smart Bin Laden was. Just by keeping phones and internet away he managed to live right inside a Pakistani Army Cantt for so long and the whole went looking for him in the mountains.

zeno said...

@Hopfrog while you travel across trails, you could probably think of a crime fiction based on your work exp and you might be on NYT bestseller list :)

zeno said...

@Deepa If OBL had been really smart, he would have at least made a pretense of telephone lines and internet cables going in to house but never really using them. It would have avoided any suspicion. [If you really believe that as a main trigger for cause of suspicion]

Hopfrog said...

@zeno, I have been bouncing the idea around of a non-fiction tell all. We saw some pretty wild stuff. Like, hmmmm... like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs4C-dGZHLE

zeno said...

@Hopfrog Indian rights for me please :)

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