Apple, Google & Facebook/Whatsapp – 1984 For Our Times?

big brother

We face probably the gravest crisis to our personal liberty and freedoms than in the last 70 years.

All through a mobile phone.

When George Orwell wrote 1984, in 1949, Big Brother was invasive in people’s homes in the form of CCTV. Citizens were advised by a kindly voice (which is why he was called Big Brother) as to what was ‘best’ for them. They were monitored where they were, what they said and told what they should do at every turn. This was for their own good.

Dissent was crushed. Mercilessly, swiftly and at an individual level. Those that did not subscribe to the Party’s line weren’t just tortured, they were broken mentally and placed back into society a model citizen. Not for Orwell’s dictatorship a crude execution. Much more useful was an individual who, after showing signs of dissent, would be implanted back as a mouthpiece for the regime, convincing their previous circle of friends and associates that they were wrong all along, just before they themselves were taken.

In this way no organised rebellion could ever be formed. Orwell had found the perfect totalitarian state. Ever present and self propogating.

Fast forward 66 years to 2015.

Here’s 1984’s definition of what they called ‘Doublethink’:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

Here’s what Tim Cook said as Brad reported recently:

Some of the most prominent and successful companies (in Silicon Valley) have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.” -Tim Cook

Oh, the joy. This, remember, is the same company that, for example, did the dirty on third party Health App providers and refused them data as they wanted it all for their (crappy) Health Kit app launch with iOS8.

Doublethink at it’s finest.

Or how about Facebook and Whatsapp? I recently reported on users suddenly realising that their Location is being used:

‘I don’t use Facebook anymore and I’ve never used Whatsapp, but anecdotally through friends and family, I’m almost positive that some of these recommendations come from location services now. A friend of mine went for a job interview and was at the company about half a workday; Facebook later suggested someone who works at a different business in the same building. They had no contact at all, aside from being geographically near each other for a few hours. Presumably Facebook was ingesting their GPS coordinates during that time and decided they might know one another based on an extended physical proximity. Rather creepy if you think about it.’

Creepy is the gentle word for it.

And Google? How about this little doozy:

First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users.

Here’s the scary thing…

After having identified Chromium as the culprit, developer Ofer Zelig said in a blog post: “While I was working I thought ‘I’m noticing that an LED goes on and off, on the corner of my eyesight [webcam]’. And after a few times when it just seemed weird, I sat to watch for it and saw it happening. Every few seconds or so.”

And, thinking back just now, that happened to me too. My webcam light started doing weird stuff to say that it was on despite the fact I’ve never used it. Was that Google? Who knows…

And that’s the point.

Who knows what these corporations are up to, where this stuff goes and who reads/listens/views it? Who knows what they do with the information they gather and who knows who they give it to?

Who is calling them to account? Who is asking what it’s for? When Google get found out, don’t they just find another way?

Why do Facebook want to know where you are? Why do apps such as Voxer and Whatsapp automatically insist on uploading your contact book for you to use them? Why is Android what it shamelessly is – a data mining project given away for free?

Why does anyone want my fingerprint???

When it was all for marketing purposes, I could understand it. Like when Amazon says ‘people who bought this also bought…’ and you spend a fortune because it turns out you are just like them.

But this? You know where I am? You know what I like? You have my phone number? You drag my friends into it? You spy on me in my home?

And then you shamelessly pretend you don’t Mr Cook???

Forget it.

There’s only one technology corporation out there publicly committed to the security and privacy of the individual…


Sexy right now? No.

Absolutely necessary for us all?



Bigglybobblyboo is a legend almost nowhere at all. He is a founder member of UTB and spends his spare time taking out his anger at the world with a fishfork and a spatula. He is also a Cribbage Master, having won 1 fight online as the other guy refused to turn up out of fear for his life.