Who’s watching? Do you decide?

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Photo by Paul Walsh

We live in an all-knowing society; everywhere we turn we are bombarded with information. With the use of Google we have the ability to find out almost any piece of information and 24 hour rolling news allows us to find out what is happening on the other side of the world within minutes. We live in a lucky set of countries that have such freedom of speech, but it is important to remember that there is a fine line between knowing everything that’s going on in the world and a society where the government know everything about you. What stops us tumbling into an Orwellian 1984 society? With the riots bringing talk of shutting down social networks in a time of crisis, is it too extreme to consider the lasting effects of government surveillance?

The concept of watching someone sleep has always baffled me, yet millions tune into watch big brother. Despite a decline in viewing figures and a change in channel, the new series of big brother is still pulling in the viewers. The idea that ‘Big brother is always watching you’ seems to sell, as many people are intrigued by how others live their lives. Yet it seems that it is the cruel twists of Big Brother which makes good TV, as I am sure more people tuned in to watch Jedward get electrocuted than see that guy from ‘My big Fat Gypsy wedding’ living out his daily life.

Although we are not all subject to the Big Brother treatment it seems that we are always being watched. The UK is one of the heaviest users of CCTV in the world, but with all these cameras, there is not enough man power or money to watch them all. This is why the controversial website ‘Internet eyes’ invites members of the public to watch CCTV and report any potential crime. If your tipoff is correct you earn points which can be used on prizes. Every time you walk past a CCTV camera just who really is watching you?

With a website for just about everything it’s easy to know what just about anyone is doing at any time. Twitter allows us to follow the daily lives of many celebrities, whilst Facebook shares with us pictures and thoughts of our friends. New social networking sites are appearing every day with the latest being justlefthome.com a website which allows users to share tips and advice about a city, making it that little bit easier for people when they move out into the big wide world.

After the London riots MP’s proposed a shutdown of all social networks should a similar situation arise; this would hopefully stop people organising rioting and cut down on the numbers of people taking part. Although it’s easy to point the blame at social networks, the government is forgetting the good social networks can do. The morning after the riots, social networking was being used to organise the clean-ups. When used incorrectly social networking may help to spread the fear of the mob, but why not shut down the twenty four hour news service to stop people from finding out where the riots are?

Although an exaggeration, what is to stop shutting down social networks spiralling into media censorship? Many countries use media censorship for political gain and shut down social networking sites to stop the spread of revolutionary ideas.  So with celebrity magazines, 24 hour news and social networking it seems that we always know what is going on in the world around us, but people are not so keen when it’s the government who knows everything about them. But can too much knowledge really be a bad thing? As Big Brother often says, you decide!

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