“1984” – Sense and sensibilities

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Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The blackmoustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.” [1]

Img. source - images.frompo.com

Img. source – images.frompo.com

Good afternoon,
Outrage, fear and a tidal wave of angry reaction has erupted since the revelation recently in the article entitled “Get your loved ones off Facebook”. The author, Salim Virani, or ‘Saintsal’ has created a most comprehensive report about the social media giant Facebook and it is well worth, dare I say required, reading for anyone who uses the internet. Although the editorial leans mainly in the direction of the uses and apps of mobile phones it is not exclusively tied to these technologies and, indeed, nor should it be.

We all know that there are “hackers” out there, we all know that information can be compromised, we all know – I hope – that anything you look up on the internet, and open a page for information on, allows spyware and data-mining bots to access your computer and suck the information out on what you are looking for, that is one of the main sources for the creation of ‘Spam’ mail advertising, the information that is sucked out of everyone’s computers.

If you are on the computer you are, wittingly or unwittingly, supplying information to someone somewhere – that’s a fact but let’s just step back for a minute and look at the big picture here.

Img. source - www.dreamstime.com

Img. source – www.dreamstime.com

A VERY short history of the Web

ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) goes online in December, connecting four major U.S. universities. Designed for research, education, and government organizations, it provides a communications network linking the country in the event that a military attack destroys conventional communications systems.

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is designed and in 1983 it becomes the standard for communicating between computers over the Internet. One of these protocols, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), allows users to log onto a remote computer, list the files on that computer, and download files from that computer.

The World (world.std.com) debuts as the first provider of dial-up Internet access for consumers.
Tim Berners-Lee of CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) develops a new technique for distributing information on the Internet. He calls it the World Wide Web.

Approximately 45 million people are using the Internet, with roughly 30 million of those in North America (United States and Canada), 9 million in Europe, and 6 million in Asia/Pacific (Australia, Japan, etc.). 43.2 million (44%) U.S. households own a personal computer, and 14 million of them are online.

As of January, 58.5% of the U.S. population (164.14 million people) uses the Internet. Worldwide there are 544.2 million users.

February 2004: Mark Zuckerberg starts Facebook as a sophomore at Harvard University.

March 2004: Facebook begins allowing people from other colleges and universities to join.

September 2004: Facebook introduces the Wall, which allows people to write personal musings and other tidbits on profile pages.

There are more than 92 million websites online.

A coding error discovered in April in OpenSSL, encryption software that makes transactions between a computer and a remote secure, makes users vulnerable to having their usernames, passwords, and personal information stolen. Millions of banks, Internet commerce companies, email services, government sites, and social media sites rely on OpenSSL to conduct secure transactions. The coding error was made in 2012. Computer security experts encourage computer users to change their passwords. [2]
What have we done…!
So, in the relatively short space of 45 years we have managed to enslave ourselves to computers and give anyone, who cares to look hard enough, access to personal information about us. That’s NOT new and the “revelations” about Facebook, along with recent revelations that law enforcement agencies are using our social media to “predict” crime. [2]

I would argue that, knowingly or unknowingly, we have been allowing this to happen since as early as 1973.

How to stop this gross invasion of our privacy?

Easy, get rid of your mobile phones and tablets and computers. Don’t go near ‘net-cafes’ or public Wi-Fi terminals, don’t log-on, sit down, shut up and be happy…!

The fact of the matter is we all love the freedom to express ourselves on social media now and we all love the fact we can keep in contact with our friends and loved ones no matter what the time, no matter where we are. Another fact in this matter is that when we exercise that right we give up our right to privacy and it’s all in the fine print, which in most cases is difficult to find and identify, much less read. The old truism about there being “no such thing as a free lunch” is absolutely true when you use the World Wide Web. Free services, such as Facebook, only survive by selling information to corporations, advertisers and conglomerates that use the information to target audiences for advertising, you didn’t honestly think that Mr. Z was paying for everybody to use his services did you?

Of course, you can always make the move away from social media and go to domain name, paid membership accounts, set up your own .com and employ a more advanced level of control over your information – or at least some of it. Even the services offering “secure domains” are not simply holding your information and while they may not actually be on-selling everything you can bet your bottom dollar that those highly regarded and economically viable domains are making some return from basic information about the demographics of their users.

Img. source - blog.check-and-secure.com

Img. source – blog.check-and-secure.com

Caveat emptor

I am absolutely certain that many of you will have heard this term somewhere along the way, roughly, it translates as “buyer beware” and nowhere is this more true than in services that you DON’T pay for.

Yes, Facebook is farming your information; Yes Facebook is on-selling that information; YES you have AGREED to this simply by opening a Facebook account and it is the same with MySpace, Twitter or any other form of “free” social media, and even to some extent, paid domain services. Notices posted on walls to the effect that you “do not allow so-and-so to use, distribute, share or in any way retain and on-forward any photo’s, information/ whatever about me” hold zero weight, by agreeing to the terms of use and/or terms of service when you opened the account you waived any such control over whatever is contained in the providers fine print.

Social Media and personal websites were designed for people to share information, ALL information whether that was their intention or not. The only practical measure you can employ to restrict the amount of information that you allow to be on-forwarded by a service provider is to strictly censor what you actually put online. If that’s something that you are not prepared to do then DON’T go near that keyboard or phone.

ANYTHING you put out there in cyberspace will be seen by others, the ones you intended it for and many you didn’t and, at the end of the day, the only control you have over that is YOU and the things YOU CHOOSE to put online. I have had a good deal of experience with this, I remember when the first computers arrived in my professional work space in the early eighties. I remember my first time on the web AND I remember the cold chill I got when I read about this thing called the internet. I went on to research, read and delve into the whole thing because I was in the procurement and supply management profession and I was transacting with tens of thousands of the company’s money every week. I READ THE FINE PRINT, a lot of different ways over the years, I studied in business and business law and the one thing I can tell you, absolutely, is don’t make the mistake of not reading it… it’s not so much a case of what’s being taken from you but rather what YOU are giving away.

Finally, I would like to offer one solid piece of advice in this latest furor, and I’m going to unashamedly borrow this from author Douglas Adams;

Touchstone Pictures 1985

Touchstone Pictures 1985

Just think about what you’re typing, edit it and control it for yourself.

Copyright RVL 2015


1) 1984, Orwell, George. 1949; Secker and Warburg, London ISBN ISBN 0-547-24964-0 (2013 edition) ISBN 978-0-547-24964-3 (ISBN13)

2) Sources for this timeline include International Data Corporation, the W3C Consortium, Nielsen/NetRatings, the Internet Society, http://www.factmonster.com/
and http://www.washingtontimes.com/

Other Sources: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Adams, Douglas. Pan Books, 1979. ISBN 0-330-25864-8

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