There was a time when 1984 seemed a long time in the future, and the concept of Big Brother seeing into one’s very soul was far-fetched.
Okay, we’ve known for a long time that the library has a list of all the books you’ve checked out. Or maybe it doesn’t – it seems some libraries stopped keeping those records after Monica Lewinsky’s book preferences were subpoenaed during the Bill Clinton kerfuffle. Amazon, though – they know everything I’ve ordered, going way back, including whatever library books I’ve downloaded to my Kindle.
And yes, the supermarket keeps track of all our tastes, by offering a supposed discount if we swipe through those membership cards. You have to wonder if anyone ever pays full price. When I forget my discount card, an obliging checkout clerk – or the customer standing behind me – usually offers a substitute one, just to hurry things up.
And of course there’s the constant threat of someone taking long-distance control of your computer to read all your secrets and hack into those convenient Internet banking records.
But yesterday I was brought up short by the discovery of a new and totally unsuspected Enemy Within. I went for a routine call-back at the Hearing Center, (yes, more loss in the past year, thank you). Then my hearing aids were attached to a computer, and the doctor said cheerfully,
“Well, I don’t have to scold you for not wearing them enough; I see that you keep them on about 10 hours a day. And I’m glad to know the hearing loss isn’t slowing you down – you’re still going to restaurants, lectures…” I forget what else she said, what else was listed on the screen in front of us, because I was so stunned.
My very own hearing aids, those innocent-looking inch-long traitors, have been spying on me. It seems that every time they adjusted themselves for a different environment, they made a note of it. For all I know, they’ve been forwarding all my conversations to the FBI.
Do you think I should sue? Surely that should have been disclosed at the start?
Or maybe they did tell me, but I didn’t hear.