NSA Surveillance, Prism, Privacy, and 1984

Rumors Image
Rumors Image

Reports have been out that sales of the book 1984 by George Orwell have been on the rise. With many conspiracy theorists and those who are concerned about their privacy over the Prism surveillance scandal, the report hardly seems shocking. The difference is that those who have actually read 1984 know that "Big Brother" there is vastly different from today's surveillance scandal. The spike in 1984 is really not surprising. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged saw a huge spike as the global credit crisis was turning people away from modern economics.

Amazon.com shows in its "Movers & Shakers" that 1984 is now up to #116 in the mass paperback book market. That is a 130% gain from being ranked 267 previously. Then there is the Nineteen Eighty-Four, Centennial Edition that moved up in the "Movers & Shakers" section 141% to be at #80 from #193. As far as how much this is up in sales, other sites have tracked it as well:

  • The Daily Economist showed that Amazon sales of 1984 were up nearly 7000% on June 11.

  • The LA Times reported on Tuesday that 1984′s sales rank was 213, up from 12,507 just a few days before.

The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation (NYSE: BAH) has seen its stock drop for three straight days after it was found out that NSA contractor Edward Snowden was employed by the firm up until this broke.

The good news is that you are not witnessing a 1984 act. The bad news is that data is the modern day Big Brother and just about everything you do can be tracked and monitored in some form or fashion. Metadata is more like "First Cousin."

And now, for the what if….

If you want to truly be a conspiracy theorist, imagine the worse case privacy scenario. Storage is now cheap enough and the technology is now widely available enough that your worst case fears about your privacy could be possible if laws did not protect you. And by "you" it is implied that you are a law-abiding citizen without a record and not under investigation and not tied to bad people.

If government agencies, telecom and wireless, cable companies, internet service providers, credit card merchants, online stores, banks and financial firms, and on and on wanted to conspire against you…

  • Every text message you sent could be collected and every phone call could be recorded.

  • Every email you send, every search you make, and every site you visit could be logged.

  • Every Facebook post and Twitter post can be tracked.

  • Any purchase you make can be recorded.

  • Every penny coming into and going out of your bank account can be tracked.

  • Every toll booth you go through can be known.

  • Every registered action or observation of your health or insurance can be tracked if put into a case document by a doctor or a hospital/medical facility.

  • Any satellite or tracking system of any car can be used as a tracking mechanism about where your car is driving.

  • Your cellphone (dumb or smart) can be used as a geographic tracking device to identify where you are and where you are making calls from.

  • Do you want to think about facial recognition and public/private video surveillance cameras?

The technology exists in some form already, either full-scale or with limited scale, for all of these above issues. If you are a known or suspected bad guy, these and many other tools are probably already in use or can be used in some manner. Again, Prism is not 1984 if you are considered to be a good guy.

Google Trends shows that 1984 is the #9 ranked for book searches. Edward Snowden's girlfriend was the #5 search term by name on Google on Tuesday.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Corporate Governance, Economy, Editor's Picks, Entertainment, Internet, Law, Personal Finance, Politics, Regulation, Telecom & Wireless Tagged: featured