When George Orwell wrote his “1984”, whether he envisioned the level of intrusion that governments can achieve into their citizens’ lives in 2015, we have no way of knowing.
But as of 2015, even if we are not commandeered by remote control radio or TV instructions as depicted in the film version of the novel, it is certain that the information that our governments have about us is beyond what we might want to believe.
Let’s face it, much of the information we are giving away ourselves by subscribing to social media sites, exposing a lot of our private lives to anybody and everybody who may want to have a sneak peek at it.
But what is at play in the digital world may be a lot more sinister than collecting information voluntarily given away on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.
A Reuters report published just last Monday (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/17/us-usa-cyberspying-idUSKBN0LK1QV20150217) says the digital intelligence gathering arm of the US government, the National Security Agency, has been hiding spying software in the remote corners of hard drives even before they are installed in millions of personal computers, thereby ensuring access to the digital devices before they are owned by individuals and ability to activate the software whenever and wherever they want.
That is, an innocent e mail you may have received or sent to a family member, friend or relative can be accessed at any time if the NSA feels like scanning your computer for whatever reason, or without a reason.
Some former NSA employees interviewed for the Reuters report confirm that various versions of the software have been in use since 2001.
This is a disturbing wake up call, not that it was not known how NSA used all kinds of techniques and technologies to spy on individuals, including leaders of countries allied to the US. After the leaks by Edward Snowden in 2013, the world had come to realize how much the US intelligence had intruded to so many areas that it shouldn’t have.
But it now appears that the spying software has been in use for almost 15 years and in that period, countless of social and political upheavals have cost many lives and billions and billions of dollars in losses in financial collapses and created mayhem all over the world.
Was the NSA in a position to prevent, pre-empt or even help soften the impact of so many tragedies that occurred, let alone in other countries, in the US?
Over the period mentioned, there were many incidents that cost many lives in our southern neighbour. But leave everything aside, was the NSA unable to detect and prevent the financial meltdown of 2008, which caused a massive collapse in the global economy. Probably yes, because the cyber security firm, which disclosed the scope of NSA spying using hard drives said it had also identified that the software was used to collect information from personal computers of bankers worldwide.
George Orwell also wrote the “Animal Farm”, a novel, in which the portrait of an egalitarian society slowly changes with some equal members of the society becoming “more equal” than others and ultimately turning into ruthless rulers.
Is this a case of the omens foretold in Orwell novels coming in full circle: A “big brother” state functioning to serve the “more equal“ members of the society by seeing and knowing everything but not acting when the less equals might suffer huge losses while elites like bankers just get richer with the support of their governments?