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While You Watch Big Brother, Big Brother Is Watching You

By Brian Prisco | Film | March 19, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | March 19, 2010 |

We live in public these days. Pan down the average Facebook updates and you can the read the minutae of day to day existence, from every baby photo to every cat rampage to where you’re going to eat, visible for your friends and world to see. And that information is permanent and accessible. More than ever, corporations and the government are using your day to day seemingly harmless transactions to track you. British filmmaker David Bond wanted to find out how exposed the average man was, and so he hired a detective agency called Cerberus, armed them with his name and his photograph, and then charged them with the task to capture him in 30 days. It’s a captivating idea, a psuedo MI-5 that kind of gets Spurlocked with a lot of common sense failings and a bit much of the filmmaker interjected. For a man who’s paranoid about people knowing too much about him, he puts so much details about his life out in the public eye. And while the film may be a little forced sleight of hand, the message is horrifying and eye-opening. We’re giving up more and more privacy every day, and the fact that this information is so readily available makes me want to run off to a cabin in the woods and hide. But they’d still be able to find me, because I am a fucking Twitter whore.

The concept is brilliant, if the execution a little conveniently dumbass. Bond goes through the usual Spy-Tech rigamarole to evade his assailants. Hopping trains, keeping his cell phone switched off, running off to different countries — crib notes from anyone who’s ever seen a Bourne movie. But at the same time, Bond also goes to Bulgaria and agrees to do an online video interview, which gets posted with his location, full name, and the fucking name of his project. The investigators send an email with a website link with the hopes that Bond would be stupid enough to respond so they could track his IP address. Bond looks at his phone, admits that this is probably a stupid idea, and then checks the link to the website. Because he used his Blackberry, the investigators couldn’t track him accurately. So then Bond goes to a fucking webcafe and looks up the website. It’s like watching a James Bond movie based on Blues Clues. Morgan Spurlock knew that eating McDonalds would make him get insanely sick, but he still chowed down and threw up and kept eating. Bond kind of pulls the same stunts to get himself nailed. He goes and visits his father and then visits his mother. He leaves travel information in the trash. Perhaps the stupidest part of the entire stunt: Bond’s wife is home with their newborn daughter and is in her THIRD FUCKING TRIMESTER when he goes off on the lam. I mean, honest to fucking God, he couldn’t wait until the kid popped at the very least? It’s not like he was actually being hunted by the government. Otherwise, they would have caught his dumb ass in about four seconds.

Still, if the method’s a bit fucked, the message is spectacular. Perhaps most frightening is when Bond contacts his internet providers, various companies that he does internet business with, to discover what information they retain. He ended up with reams and reams of material — and that was the companies that bothered to send him any info. actually had about a phone book worth of info: every purchase he’s made, every gift he’s sent and to whom, every item he’s searched. Allegedly this information is stored for the government to potentially use as well as for them to optimize the shopping experience. They can market personally to you, the same bullshit that tempers Facebook ads. He deleted his Facebook account, because conspiracy theorists proclaim that the site is being used by the CIA. In which case, you probably won’t be hearing from me for some time. Sorry, Jesus. Sorry, Santa.

During the question and answer session, the investigator Duncan Mee went into great detail about the dangers of our modern convenience. The Foursquare app allows people to essentially track you via GPS. Sure, you might be the mayor of Shoney’s on I-81, but two angry rednecks with hammers can be waiting for you in the parking lot to rob your ass. Or, simply bust into your home, since they know you aren’t home. There are countless stories of Twitter-based robberies and muggings. Most daunting was the Facebook horror stories. Duncan and Cerberus basically created a false Facebook page and pretended to ask David’s friends — based on an old internet cache that snapshotted who his friends were — for help as David. Duncan explained that all you needed to do to get on to a Facebook protected page was create an account, friend five or six of the same people, and then send a friend request. I personally got spammed this way by a girl pretending to be from Washington and Lee. Even taking protective measures can’t protect you. Several people were explaining how they were fired from jobs or placed on criminal or sex-offender lists because of identity theft. They did nothing wrong, but still are paying for other people swiping their identities.

If Erasing David is a little too much Bond, at least I respect him for championing the cause of internet privacy and protection. After the experiment, when Bond walked into the investigator’s offices and saw every detail of his personal life and those of his friends and family covering every surface of the walls, you could see him turning green and going into a tailspin. And they aren’t even the government. Though this film chronicles the “cameras everywhere” police state of London, this could just as easily be America. After watching the movie, and listening to the commentary afterward, I seriously contemplated deleting my Twitter account. Society is inching towards a microchip in every palm, leashing us under the auspices of governmental security and convenience. The worst part was the claim that we can’t erase all vestiges of ourselves but we can only take certain precautions. I guess if we’re going to put ourselves out in the public eye 24/7, we need to expect that people are going to look.