Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Kindle and Big Brother

Mark Pilgrim has an great post that draws correlations between the Kindle's DRM and Orwell's 1984. The point here really isn't the Kindle. Amazon's e-book reader is just the latest example of such policies. (It may be breaking new ground, so to speak, in that it is an inherently connected device, and its DRM reflects that.) Right now I'm reading (paper book) Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. In that future world, privacy is virtually non-existent. DHS has monitoring devices in everything. Vinge explicitly says at one point that people had to adjust their quaint notions of privacy. (I don't have the book in front of me, so I don't know that he put it like that — quaint, and so on — but that was the impression that I got. Britain and other countries are moving quickly toward a surveillance society. I remember several years ago, I was helping to chaperon a study-abroad program in England, and we warned the students that they should be careful about such things. In a previous term, a student was caught trying to buy drugs when a video camera installed in an alley recorded him. I would imagine that the United States is moving in that direction. Certainly the current administration would like that. We already have cameras surveilling intersections for traffic violations. The sheer size of the US means that we probably won't be able to monitor everything. We'll have to find some scaled-down version of universal surveillance that only monitors high-risk areas. Until the computers can watch us for ourselves. Then we can monitor everything.

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