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Who is watching You?
by: By Val .K.
Which is your preferred reality TV show: Survivor, Real World, American Idol, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Big Brother, Dog Days, Starting Over, or Temptation Island? Or is it Paradise Hotel, Playing it Straight, Mad Mad House, Love Cruise, Last Comic Standing or Next Action Star? Would you prefer Road Rules, My Big Fat FiancÚ, Forever Eden, Fame, Both Camp, or the longer name Beg, Borrow and Deal? How about The Apprentice, Top Model, Rebel Billionaire, Extreme Makeover, I Want a Famous Face, and Fear Factor. Consider a more bizarre list: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, Can You Be a Porn Star?, Wife Swap, and Murder in Small Town X. Because the list is long, I had to abridge it. (What an abridgement!) So, forgive me if I excluded your favorite.

It appears, nowadays, that everyone has a new concept for reality TV. (Next season watch out for these new shows coming your way: The Cut, Rock Star, Fire me . . . Please.) But not all new concepts make it to TV land. Some, like the dream conquests of Hannibal and Napoleon, are writ on water. For the other day while browsing the Web, I came across these "new" ideas for reality TV shows, which might never see daylight: Ultimate Reality, World's Scariest Prostitute Chases, World's Most Uneventful Videos, Middle School Blind Date, Rent-a-Cops, When Hobos Attack, Joe Heterosexual, Accountants, The Saddams, Meet my Internet Stalkers, I'm an Online Gamer. Since everyone is coming up with their own concepts for reality TV, I shan't be undone. So here are mine: Tax Evaders and My neighbors, the Terrorists.

The proliferation of reality TV shows only highlights their popularity—they are over a hundred of them running on cable alone. And their ratings are enough to make TV producers dream up more. For out of 10 most viewed television programs 5 are reality shows. Like the smash hit among reality buffs, Big Brother. But little do the many fans of these shows realize its allusion to Orwell's classic novel, 1984, where the machinery of a totalitarian state, personified by an anonymous "Big Brother," oversees the lives of its citizens. In the book spy cameras were every where—in the bathrooms, in bedrooms, and at places of work!

In the days of yore spying was the sole reserve of Intelligence agencies. Like the American CIA, the British MI6, the Israeli Mossad, and the defunct Soviet Union's KGB. Now, anyone who has the right tools and a little time could play "Big Brother." Like in Thailand, Asia, where peeping-Toms run amok and famous actresses and ministers are filmed having sex in their own boudoirs, and beamed live to viewers all over the country. (The Clinton / Lewinsky fiasco was sissy stuff.)

And not too long ago in Spain, a man was caught by the Spanish police for spying, and stealing people's data through their webcams. Scary? I have heard worse. Because you can also be spied upon through your computer monitor.

Paranoia appears to be necessary in today's brave new world. Because privacy is nix. Hear this from Andrew Shen, a privacy analyst at the Electronics Privacy information Center (EPIC): "Most people haven't fully grasped how everything that you see or do on the Internet is recorded and stored somewhere." Or this more harrowing remark from Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems: "You already have zero privacy—get used to it."

Yes, get over it. Because in today's knowledge obsessed world, data is priced commodity. And any organization—or individual—who wants it will. And the sad thing about this is that we most times give it away without knowing. Did you just ask how? Simple. You are the kind that likes to download lot of free stuff—music, games, softwares and what have you. But what you never knew is that you are actually paying for those programs with your personal data. Surprised? Don't be. (There is no such thing as a free lunch.) And when this data is taken and used for marketing purposes it can also be sold to a third party, who may use it for whatever it pleases.

And if you're not tricked into giving your data away, there are always insidious programs like Cookies and Trojan horses. A Cookie is a program which you sometimes download for the better viewing of certain websites. (It is a security loophole and can be used by skilled hackers and crackers to infiltrate your system.) A Trojan horse—like the fabled wooden horse which the Greeks used in infiltrating Troy—is a back door to your computer which a cracker can use whenever he or she desires to steal data. Or simply take over your computer to cause mayhem. (To discover a Trojan horse—it works invisibly—a good antivirus like Norton, MacAfee, or even Panda is required.)

They are a lot of compromised websites out there embedded with Spywares and Trojan Horses. But the problem is—it's impossible to tell a normal website from a compromised one. So what do you do? The best bet is to browse without downloading anything you don't trust. I personally prefer this advice from Bob Kane's and Bill Fingers' Batman: "Trust nobody." Because your friends' computers or emails maybe compromised without them ever knowing it. (Never open an attachment you are not expecting, even from those you know.)

With the Net and the Web came good things. Like the exchange of knowledge and ideas (a student studying micro electronics somewhere in Srilanka maybe reading the latest development in nanotechnology published by professors in MIT.) People interact today from far corners of the globe who would not have met ten years ago (a boy from South Africa chatting with a girl from the Philippines). We can download the latest music through Mp3s. We can send and receive pictures and home movie videos. But for all this freedom which the web gives we pay a price—we forfeit our privacies. Because anyone, anywhere on the Web, who is interested, can trace us. (Our digital tracts are everywhere.)

So, even if you choose to move unnoticed like a phantom by using an Anonymizer—a software which masks your identity—it's all just a means to make us feel better. Because the fact is no matter what we do on the Net, no matter how we try to conceal our movements or even use softwares to protect our privacies—Big Brother is watching us!

Val .K. is a poet, and a nature lover. A collection of his poems "Without a Name" will soon be published by AuthorHouse, U.S.A. For personal contact, send mails to: leviathandepthsreturns@yahoo.com


About the Author

Val .K. is a free lance writer, a book reviewer, a poet, and a nature lover.