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Latest gadgets allow you to be Big Brother


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POSTED: Monday, March 23, 2009

Like many of our great literary visionaries, George Orwell got things almost exactly right in his dystopian novel “;1984.”;

Almost.

Here in the future, there IS a Big Brother and he IS watching you—but turns out, he's not really paying attention. In fact, he's not watching you as much as skimming past, fast-forwarding through or recording over you.

Unlike in the novel, slacking off on your morning calisthenics not likely to draw his attention—unless you turn it into a laugh-out-loud imitation of a Beyonce dance video and post it on YouTube.

Still, if you ever use an ATM, enter a grocery store, work in an office or commute in a crowded Tokyo subway wearing a short skirt, you can bet part or all of you will make cameos on hard drives on an almost daily basis—at least for a few moments.

Of course this all raises the alarm bells of privacy advocates. We know this because Homeland Security has an underground bunker devoted to monitoring their bells, and sources say it's deafening.

Just joking. Actually, every serious privacy advocate I've ever known “;died”; around 1998.

Oddly enough, as electronic privacy vanishes, our sensitivity to being watched the old-fashioned way, in common social settings, has risen.

By my measure, the graduated scale from looking to staring to leering has been reduced to 2 seconds, 5 seconds and “;oops, that's a big boyfriend and it's headed this way.”;

But the good news is you don't have to be a federal agent in an unmarked van to conduct clandestine monitoring of people in their most intimate moments (though it's still the option with the best health plan).

Throughout the Web, there are gadgets and software solutions ready and able to fuel your paranoid frenzies in whatever ways they choose to manifest. After all, if you can't beat them, spy on them while they beat you:

Wireless DVRs: James Bond-like devices, stand-alone gadgets hidden behind or inside mundane items, are now almost commonplace, like the Fake ID Card with Integrated Camera available at akihabaranews.com for $155, the Spy Camera Lighter at slipperybrick.com for $150 (which, as “;Q”; might say, also works as a cigarette lighter) and the Tissue Box Spy Camera at brickhouse. com for $600. Perfect for disgruntled employees, Peeping Tom pyromaniacs and any spouse who believes his better half is treating hay fever symptoms by having an affair with her allergist.

Wireless streaming: Many camera packages are available for those who want to keep a eye on some corner of their world in real time while browsing the rest of the planet on the Web, among them the D-Link Internet Surveillance kit at d-life.com for about $500. It can be expanded to control up to four cameras, which you can monitor live online.

Mobile streaming: For the voyeur on the go comes iCam, a $5 iPhone application available at skjm.com that allows you to see everything your computer's webcam sees no matter where you are. Simply download two apps, one to your computer and one to your iPhone, connect with a user name and password, and your cats will never have a moment to themselves again.

 

Subscribe to columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.