You recall the dystopic visions of the future around the 1940s-60s, all the ominous forebodings of a totalitarian surveillance society? The most famous of them would be George Orwell’s 1984, but all of them have certain things in common that are worth reviewing.
There are common themes in these dystopic paintings of the future. Surveillance is one of them. Totalitarianism is another. A recurring theme is how the government installed surveillance cameras in households to watch over every citizen, to deny them even the privacy of their own homes.
(We remember this particularly from the so-called telescreens of “1984”, but there are many other examples.)
In retrospect, we can observe that the government hasn’t done anything like installing cameras in domestic households. But it has done something else. In Germany, it was recently uncovered that the Federal Police are planting trojan software on the computers of citizens – trojans that allow the police to break into the computer and access all of it, including its peripherals. Notably, those peripherals include its webcam and its microphone, which become available to the Police.
Many other European states are suspected of doing the same thing, based on the sales of such trojan manufacturers. And just yesterday, news emerged that the Swedish Prosecution Authority is asking for the same capability: looking through cameras into ordinary people’s homes, just like in 1984.
But nowhere has the government forcibly installed cameras in every home. So, in other words, there is one key difference in what didn’t come true of the dystopic, totalitarian visions of the future from the 1950s:
We bought and installed the cameras ourselves.