Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big Brother Has Arrived

For decades now, people have feared "Big Brother". The concept, in its various forms, has been part of countless science fiction stories. The idea is that technology will eventually bring us to a day that the government can watch our every move. They will know everything we do, both publicly and privately.

But few people seem to realize that Big Brother has arrived. Only, not at all the way ever envisioned. We have fought so hard through the years to prevent the government from having this capability, yet completely ignored the fact that we have brought this moment upon ourselves.

Today, it is possible to track nearly everything about you, including your location to within a few meters. And the secret to this is not in some government super computer or spy satellite, but in a few small items that fit into the palm of your hand.

The first is, of course, your wallet. More specifically, your credit and debit cards. The era of the Personal Check is fading. Most stores, now, treat your Personal Check in the same way as a debit card. The transaction is instantaneous and electronic. More and more people are forgoing the use of cash for their debit card.

What this means is that there is now a record of everything you buy. Just look at your bank statement, which can also reveal where you are located.

But the more significant sign of Big Brother is your cell phone. That's right. That personal item it seems most Americans these days can't live without.

Were you aware that it is possible to determine your physical location simply by triangulating your cell phone within the cell phone towers? In fact, the FCC requires that by the end of 2005, that a person can be tracked to within 100 meters for 911 support. Sometimes this has been referred to as a poor-man's GPS. But, the fact is, all you need to do is leave your cell phone on, and in your pocket or purse, and you can be tracked. Many newer phones have GPS built-in, reducing that 100 meters to just a few feet.

Furthermore, most new cell phones, today, have built-in cameras. So, while the government hasn't installed cameras on every street corner (or has it?), we, the general public, have.

There have already been at countless uses of this. In one case, a quick-thinking boy used his camera phone to snap a picture of a crime-in-action, which aided in the arrest. More significantly, in Europe, there was a case of the police using a criminal's cell phone to track him down.

Big Brother has arrived, folks. But he isn't your government. He is you!

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