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No Privacy in America
Feeling the need to be “at the cutting edge of the new” and “the first on your block to have it” puts us in a race with ourselves to keep pace with the evolving technological world. Cell phones, e-mail, GPS, EZ-Pass, and the entire World Wide Web – all these inventions enable us to live in a world where people across the planet are only milliseconds away. All these new inventions, however, also have a drawback in common – they serve as locating devices for each and every one of us. Privacyhas vanished.
In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Big Brother was a character of fiction. He was able to oversee everything and virtually controlled the daily lives of millions of people. Now, as we advance technologically, the thought of Big Brother watching over us isn’t so far-fetched. He could be the government monitoring the actions of you and your family, or he could be your boss at work secretly watching you when you think you’re alone. Or he could even be those closest to you, tracking your every move. Big Brother no longer has to work hard to monitor us, for we’re inadvertently providing his eyes and ears.
There’s no question that cell phones are great inventions. I have one and take it with me everywhere I go. “Never leave home without it,” I tell myself. My cell phone allows me to stay in contact with everyone, all the time. I can call home when I’m out to let my parents know where I am, or I can call my friends to see where we’re going to hang out that night. I even have the NewYork Yankees scores text-messaged to my cell phone every three innings so I never miss a beat. The benefits of having cell phones are obvious, yet the drawbacks are something to ponder.
In this new age of cell phones the concept of “getting away from it all” has virtually disappeared. When I was visiting a college in April of my senior year in high school, my cell phone rang at least twice each day with people from back home in New Jersey trying to contact me. Sometimes it was my friends calling just to see if I wanted to hang out that night, forgetting that I was 250 miles away. Other times it was my fellow Honor Society officers calling to see what I thought of the new activity they were trying to create for the club. I got very frustrated, for I was supposed to be on vacation, far away from New Jersey, yet it sure didn’t feel that way because my cell phone rang continuously. I had no privacy, even being far away from home. And even when I am near home there is little privacy when I have my cell phone with me. Whenever I am out my parents can call me to ask where I am, or my friends can call just to see what I’m doing. And the first question anyone ever asks is, “Hey, where are you?” When someone asks you that question you either tell them the truth and let them know your exact coordinates, or you’re forced to lie and tell them you’re somewhere you’re not. Before cell phones you would call people’s homes and if they weren’t home you would try again later, not knowing where they were at the time of your call. People were able to enjoy privacy in the world, remaining anonymous when they pleased. Now, however, almost everyone has a cell phone and privacy is diminishing.
The Internet is one of the greatest examples of the loss of privacy. When we sign on we believe we are secure because Internet Explorer and Netscape tell us we are. Yet unknown to most novice computer users is that little locating device Intel puts into every one of their Pentium III and Pentium IV chips, allowing Big Brother to watch almost everyone. Every move you make on the Internet can be recorded step by step, website to website.
One of the most popular things to do on the Internet is to use America Online’s Instant Messenger. While we chat away with as many friends as we can that are online, many of us click through people’s profiles to see how long they’ve been online (I know I do, at least). Yet when I stopped to think about it, I started to wonder why I should be allowed to know how long a person has been online. Do I really want everyone knowing how long I have been online? Isn’t that my own personal business? I guess the mistaken word is personal, because that implies privacy. And as we should all realize by now, privacy is becoming an archaic idea.
It seems as if every time a new piece of technology is released and becomes popular it leads to further loss of privacy. Take, for example, EZ-Pass. As cars zip through tollbooths and no longer have to wait in lines, sensors in the lanes identify the car and mark the exact time it is at that location. Not only can someone find out when someone was at a certain point, but it is also easily possible to trace that person’s route from tollbooth to tollbooth. There was actually an incident when a person was mailed a speeding ticket because he was tracked by EZ-Pass going from one tollbooth to another in an amount of time that would indicate that he was going over the speed limit. No cop ever saw him, yet he was still given a speeding ticket. Is that fair? People were able to find out when he was at certain points just because he was trying to save time by avoiding waiting at tollbooths. EZ-Pass seems like a great invention, yet it, like so many others, adds to the loss of privacy. Big Brother is watching.
Another new technological device that people long to have has even worse side effects: Global Positioning Systems (GPS). It can be mounted in cars and on bikes, and it even comes in handheld models. It enables people to know their exact geographic position in the world and even gives second by second directions on how to get from one place to another. Yet did anyone ever think about who else may be able to acquire a person’s coordinates? Who else may possibly be tapping into that same satellite? Why not just plant computer chips into ourselves so the government and everyone else can track us all the time? Some people have chips implanted into their pets so that they can locate them if they are ever lost, so why not just do this to humans? It sounds rather futuristic, yet maybe it’s not so far away.