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*** Big Brother (in Cyberspace) FAQ ***


Andre Bacard, Author of
"Computer Privacy Handbook"
[FAQ Version October 25, 1995]
[Links at]

Newsgroups: alt.activism,alt.conspiracy,alt.politics.libertarian
Date: Tue, 9 Apr 1996 19:32:58 UTC
Subject: Big Brother on Internet FAQ

This article offers an overview of the evolving relation
between "Big Brother" and Cyberspace. I have written this
especially for persons who have a taste for irony. You may
distribute this (unaltered) FAQ for non-commercial purposes.

Why did you write this FAQ?

I'm worried about democracy's future, notably as the Internet
grows explosively. Americans (I'm sure my French friends will
dispute this!) are setting the tone for the Internet. However,
American politics (like that in many countries) is a circus
where "right-wing" and "left-wing" people play endless ego-
games sparing with each other.

Meanwhile, global ("apolitical") companies like Microsoft and
Visa are transforming democracy in profound ways that are
invisible to the circus crowd. High-tech firms are building
Big Brother into the INFRASTRUCTURE of our Information Age,
thus creating a global Surveillance Age!

America has had virtually no serious political dissent since
the 1960s (pre Computer Age). In 1994, Ross Perot convinced
Americans to take a "third party" seriously. Today, G. Gordon
Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan (all talk-show hosts),
and millions of citizens angrily denounce Big Brother's
intrusion into law-abiding citizen's lives. Is this discontent
the start of a much needed re-examination of democracy? Or is
it merely a partisan desire to replace one Big Brother with
another? What impact will today's "anti-government" sentiment
have on the Internet?

I'm circulating this FAQ as a wake-up call.

What does Big Brother mean?

The expression "Big Brother" was coined by the British author
George Orwell in his satirical novel, "Nineteen Eight-Four"
(published in 1949). Orwell's book describes the inner
workings of Oceania, a fictitious totalitarian state. "Big
Brother" was personified by a man's photo, a man with dark,
penetrating eyes. His photo appeared on posters throughout
Oceania with the caption: "Big Brother Is Watching You". The
Party (with "Big Brother" as symbol) ran Oceania, a totally
bureaucratic society, in which humans were numbers devoid of
any individuality. Big Brother declared that no person should
have the right to privacy.

[You might want to read three parallel books: "The Iron Heel"
by American Jack London, "Brave New World" by the British
Aldous Huxley, and "We" by the Russian Zamyatin.]
How did Big Brother maintain power?

Orwell's Big Brother learned to:

(1) Snoop on citizens. For example, Big Brother used the
"telescreen," a two-way television, to watch and listen to all

(2) Control language. Big Brother created a new language,
"Newspeak," designed to cripple the public's ability to have
dissenting thoughts. For example, the word "free" could only
be used in the sense of "The dog is free of fleas." The word
could not be used in the sense of "intellectually free,"
because intellectual freedom no longer existed and was
nameless. One aspect of Newspeak was "doublethink," the
ability to believe two contradictory ideas simultaneously. Big
Brother's Party had three doublethink slogans: "War is Peace",
"Freedom is Slavery", and "Ignorance is Strength."

3) Fabricate enemies. Big Brother created a devil figure named
Emmanuel Goldstein ("The Enemy of the People"). All crimes
against the Party, all sabotage, all heresy, all treachery
were blamed on Goldstein. Oceania had a ritual called Two
Minutes Hate. Goldstein's face would appear on a big
telescreen, while Oceania's citizens hissed and hated
Goldstein. Big Brother stated that Goldstein, once a leading
Party member, had become the leader of a vile anti-government

Does Big Brother exist outside of novels?

Yes. Orwell's book was patterned after Stalin's Russia and
Hitler's Germany. However, world history is largely a history
of dictatorships. Orwell described a process that has been
ongoing for thousands of years. [Before electronic
surveillance existed, human eyes and ears did all the
snooping]. Each tyrant has told his citizens, in so many
words: "Give me YOUR liberty, and I'll protect YOU from
(competing) dictators who want to enslave YOU." Niccolo
Machiavelli's book, "The Prince" (often called the "Handbook
of Dictators"), is one timeless work that explicitly outlines
this master/slave dynamic.

Is Big Brother a fascist? A communist?

Big Brother craves power as an end in itself. Big Brother has
used capitalism, colonialism, communism, consumerism, fascism,
feudalism, monarchism, occultism and theism. Big Brother is
adaptable. He will use whatever "ism" delivers power to him!

What about Big Brother in today's world?

Big Brother wears a designer mask that looks different in
America, in Italy, in Russia, and in Singapore. This flexible
mask fools many people, just as magician David Copperfield's
illusions bewilder his audiences.
Most people reading this FAQ live in computerized societies.
For us, Big Brother is a web of corporations and government
agencies that rule "our" technological INFRASTRUCTURE: for
instance, the telephone companies; the credit bureaus; the
mass media; the surveillance agencies, etc. These groups have
the power to 1) Snoop on citizens, 2) Control language, and 3)
Fabricate enemies.

"The Economist" [April 29, 1995, page 92] provides a chilling,
though commonplace example:

"... Equifax, America's biggest consumer-credit
reporting firm, said in March that it was teaming
up with AT&T, America's largest long-distance
telephone company, to computerise millions of
medical records."

This accord may give the Equifax-AT&T team YOUR credit
records, phone records, and medical records. Needless to say,
AT&T also works closely with government agencies around the

Did YOUR political party campaign to encourage or stop
Equifax-AT&T from serving as Big Brother? Why not? I'm
reminded of a cartoon that shows two KGB agents sitting next
to a crumbling Kremlin. One agent says, "What will we do for
a living?" The other agent answered, "No problem. We'll open
a credit agency."

As we approach the 21st century, the trend is to create one
international Big Brother, described as the "new world order."
This order will be maintained, in part, by global electronic
surveillance. America, the European Union, Japan, and the
multi-national corporations are leading the charge towards
this globalism, the chic "ism" on the block.

So what about Big Brother and the Internet?

Let us define the "Internet" broadly as all the computer
networks (including online services and telephone companies)
that allow us to exchange e-mail, read newsgroups, visit chat
rooms, etc.

Big Brother is very interested in the Internet for two
reasons. First, the Internet allows YOU an inexpensive,
interactive medium to express political dissent. Big Brother
wants to regulate "dissent." Second, the Internet is the most
pro-surveillance technology ever invented. It is trivial for
Big Brother to read and archive (store) YOUR incoming and
outgoing e-mail. It is easy for online services to monitor
what YOU read. For these reasons, Big Brother wants to move
quickly to control the Internet the way it already rules
military, banking, law-enforcement, and other "nets".

Compare the Internet with another technology.

Television pioneers vowed that TV would nurture an educated,
cultured citizenry. In reality, TV molded a Consumer Society
of couch potatoes. Today, Internet promoters like America On
Line, CompuServe, and Prodigy speak ecstatically about
bringing the "news" and the Louvre museum into every home.
Hmm... Maybe so. But, unless we change courses, the Internet
will also usher Big Brother into YOUR home quietly and

How might Big Brother take over the Internet?

The same way Big Brother has always controlled Little

1) Snoop on citizens. The Internet already allows Big Brother
to read YOUR e-mail and monitor all YOUR online activity,
including YOUR banking and investment records. In some
countries, Big Brother has already outlawed encryption, such
as PGP [see end of this FAQ], to stop YOU from asserting any
online privacy.

2) Control language. Big Brother is already trying to censor
YOUR Internet language (and pictures) that are "abusive,"
"obscene," or "politically incorrect."

3) Fabricate enemies. Big Brother is already trying to
frighten Internet users that hackers, pedophiles, and
terrorists are hiding behind every computer screen. The goal
of the propaganda campaign is to generate support for a
NetPolice force.

Why does this threaten freedom?

Intellectual and political freedom exist only if sincere
people can openly say "The Emperor has no clothes" and
advocate a wardrobe. This freedom is chilled, if not squashed,
when people realize that Big Brother is always looking over
their shoulders.

How would you summarize this FAQ?

Most political rhetoric is, to borrow a phrase from William
Shakespeare, "sound and fury that signify nothing." I urge
YOU, if YOU care about personal freedom, to reflect more about
the Big Brother(s) in YOUR life. If YOU are a Conservative,
Democrat, Liberal, Libertarian, Monarchist, Republican, ... or
member of any other party, ask yourself whether YOUR leaders
really oppose or support Big Brother!! What about YOU? What
about YOUR vision of a future Internet?

Anything else I should know?

YOUR privacy and safety could be in danger! Prolific bank,
credit and medical databases, e-mail monitoring, and computer
matching programs are just a few factors that threaten every
law-abiding citizen. In short, our anti-privacy society can
serve criminals and snoops computer data about YOU on a silver

If you want to PROTECT your privacy, I urge you to support
groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation
<> and the Electronic Privacy Information Center

Andre, have you written other privacy-related FAQs?

I'm circulating an (1) Anonymous Remailer FAQ, (2) E-Mail
Privacy FAQ, (3) (Non-Technical) PGP FAQ for Novices, and (4)
ALPHA.C2.ORG Remailer FAQ. To get these FAQs,

Visit my WEB site:

Or send me this e-mail: To:
Subject: Help
Message: [Ignored]
See you in the future,
Andre Bacard
====================================================================== Bacard wrote "The Computer Privacy
Stanford, California Handbook" [Intro by Mitchell Kapor].
"Playboy" Interview (See Below) Published by Peachpit Press, (800) 283-9444, ISBN # 1-56609-171-3.

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