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Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop
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Big Brother Is 全haring'


My, how you've changed, Big Brother. What happened to the sourpuss in "1984," George Orwell's grim novel about a thought-controlled future? Gone are the piercing eyes and the perennial threat: "Big Brother is Watching."

You've had quite the fashion update. I like how you dress in T-shirts and sweats, just like the proles. I like your boyish grin. No longer a tyrant without a name, you're now Facebook's founder and supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg.

The old Big Brother sought to conquer and oppress. You exude benevolence as you explain in perfect Facespeak: "Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected."

Stock analysts are valuing Facebook as high as $100 billion. That would make your social media company worth more than Caterpillar, Ford or Kraft Foods. The interesting part is that you have absolutely nothing to sell except information about your members.

To justify such a lofty price, Facebook will have to rake in a lot more than the $1 a member it now collects. How will you do that, Big Brother? By finding new ways to extract information from members and sell their digital rap sheets to marketers and other interested parties.

But how will you ramp up the surveillance level? You already know our Facebook conversations, our friends' identities, links we share and the things we "like." If we should change our relationship status to "engaged," you sell that information to wedding photographers who beam ads at us. If we use your service to visit other sites on the web, you know what we did there. Naturally, you know where we live. You know our age, gender, diseases and perhaps fascination with certain porn stars.

The danger for the empire is a mass uprising against being watched.

A competing enterprise could offer users shelter from your gaze. Of course, only the oldest among us recall the misty past when personal information was stored in metal cabinets with locks on them. And many may enjoy hitting the "like" button on a post about Kanye West, then having an ad for an upcoming Kanye West concert appear on their page.

The rumblings of resistance, however, are unmistakable.

Facebook recently settled with the Federal Trade Commission over changes it made to its privacy settings without obtaining users' consent. They would have put our pictures, hometown, friends list and other information in the public eye. This upset some of us. But you patiently explained that the changes offered a "simpler model for privacy control."

Variations on the word "simple" can be Facespeak for compromising one's privacy in return for convenience. As Google recently wrote to users, "We're getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that's a lot shorter and easier to read."

Members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee looked into this simplification and didn't quite enjoy the vibe. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, complained that Google "danced" around the details while going on and on about its efforts to "enhance the user experience."

Collectors of our data like talking about "people," "power" and "sharing." As Big Brother Zuckerberg wrote, "By giving people the power to share, we're making the world more transparent."

But while transparency might be a plus in corporate financial statements and government programs — and reports on what's really happening on the streets of Damascus — must it be applied to bra size?

Friends, time for full disclosure. Yes, I'm on Facebook. And yes, I'm this far from deleting my account. Big Brother, I know you're watching and hope you'd let me.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




6 Comments | Post Comment
Here's why this dosen't matter. Facebook is optional. If you don't like what they do with your information, then don't use it. Simple as that. You enter a terms of use with them and no one is pointing a gun to your head. No, the real big brother is still the federal governement, which can now take away your citizenship and lock you up in Gitmo without a trial for the rest of your life. But thats not scary or relevant, lets talk about the evils of facebook instead. Lame, Froma.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Feb 9, 2012 7:12 AM
Closer to home the real "big brother" has disenfranchised voters in order to create a "right" to gay marriage. The real "big brother" is forcing Catholic health workers to break religious tenets if they want to keep their jobs in order to create a "right" to healthcare. Don't forget that althoug liberals and "big brother" swore there would be no "death panels" there are in fact "ethics boards" that will deny, for example, brain surgery to patients over the age of 70. Froma fears facebook in a society without shame or dignity, Chris is upset about Gitmo, where people who want to kill him reside, and everybody is ignoring the real danger just outside the front door. Fools rush in.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Tom
Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:01 AM
The NDAA is just one of many things I'm worried about. Much of what you just described, Tom, are also worries of mine. I think we're saying simliar things in response to this article. Who cares about facebook, when so many other issues are growing right under our noses.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:56 AM
Froma please contact me by E-mail at the above and I will tell you a story that you will not believe that happened to me . I dont want to disclose on open line but you will be shocked to hear this and when you verify this story you will want to interview me . Right now I cant say anything that will be published but you will be shocked unless you already Know . Please contact me . If the Public finds this out they may try arrest me for no reason . Thank you read your article about Facebook but this has got that beat .
Comment: #4
Posted by: James Lee
Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:54 PM
Facebook may have been created by Uncle sam to get better aquauinted with us as individuals. Its a great way to filter out whos here and what their needs are . They may try to help out People and serve their personal needs.
Comment: #5
Posted by: James Lee
Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:56 PM
I go to DC all the time and its a great place and would love to live there. More spies are in DC than anywhere in the World and it feels safe by them being there. After what happened on 9-11 DC is the safest place to be in the World and I appreciate Peoples work there . Years ago before 9-11 DC was a scary place to walk around and you can now visit the monuments at night and many People are with you when you walk . I am glad and think it is now something we are all going to have to live with for a while maybe forever. I feel safer with this going on although I wished we could all return to the days of JFK era . 9-11 did all this and was hoping that BIN LADEN would be a man and surrender and tell us his hatred in Court and why we should get out of the middle east all together unless we are asked to involved; I do believe the UNITED NATIONS can put a force in these places so we can all shoulder the task of keeping TYrants out of the Middleeast. Thank You great article.
Comment: #6
Posted by: James Lee
Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:06 PM
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