CNN, 25 June 2003
London, England (CNN) -- On the anniversary of author George Orwell's 100th birthday the Big Brother society he described in his then futuristic novel 1984 continues to cause debate as to whether it is with us 2003.
Orwell's book, written in 1948, attacks totalitarian governments, depicting a society overseen by an ever-present, all seeing police state where there is no privacy and no promotion of the individual.
But the fictitious state of the future novel is similar to modern-day living and could result in 'civil violence and disobedience', said a human rights group on Wednesday.
"Privacy is being systematically engineered into extinction. Each day sees a new onslaught on this precious and delicate right," Simon Davies, director of Privacy International said.
"Surveillance has become an epidemic," Davies added. "Led by the U.S. and the UK, countries are encouraged and coerced into adopting a vast range of repressive measures designed to maximize all levels of surveillance."
He said that millions of people were angered by the loss of rights concerning privacy.
"Within a short time anxious citizens will be reluctantly forced to take action through campaigns of civil disobedience, sabotage or subversion," he said.
In the UK, more than 300 million pounds ($450 million) is spent each year on a surveillance industry involving an estimated 300,000 cameras covering shopping areas, housing estates, car parks and public facilities, according to Privacy International.
Under recent UK Home Office proposals, state officials will be able to monitor when you are online, who you e-mail and which Web sites you visit, as well as everything you hear and say on the telephone.
Last week, UK Transport Secretary Alistair Darling proposed every car should be fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS), which can pinpoint -- using triangulation -- the position of a car within five or 10 meters.
Each vehicle would transmit its location back to a central computer, via the mobile phone network.
Mobile phone companies are already able to track users -- more than 80 percent of the UK population -- to within a few feet in urban areas when they make a phone call or text.
Last month, UK Home Secretary David Blunkett proposed a controversial ID card which will hold personal details as well as biometric information like electronic fingerprints.
But UK Data Protection Act specialists Olswang said laws are in place to keep state and private companies in check although they were concerned it was not always enforced and individuals do not always know their rights.
Data protection specialist Marc Dautlich said: "Marketers have access if you use a store card. You leave a trail behind you that a retailer can analyze."
But he added: "If you don't want a marketer to have information about you there are plenty of ways in which to stop them."
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