Orwell was wrong about Big Brother
The Microsoft chairman says his
technology will make the US more secure without infringing on
On the 100th anniversary of George Orwell's birth,
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said the author of Nineteen
Eighty-four was only partially correct and predicted that
technology will help preserve privacy rights.
Gates told a homeland-security conference on
Wednesday afternoon that Orwell's dystopian vision of the
future, in which Big Brother used technology as a form of
social control, "didn't come true, and I don't believe it
software architect used his appearance in Washington to stress
his company's willingness to work with the federal government
on combating terrorism and to tout his company's Trustworthy
Computing initiative and its controversial next-generation secure computing base," a
project previously known as Palladium. "We're working with a
variety of hardware and software partners to provide this
level of protection against future viruses, threats from
hackers or anyone seeking to acquire personal information or
digital property with malicious intent," Gates said.
"This technology can make our country more secure
and prevent the nightmare vision of George Orwell at the same
time," Gates said. "Orwell didn't anticipate how technology
can be used to protect privacy. The fact that technology can
protect both security and privacy by protecting the computer
systems and the information on them is a positive thing."
Orwell, the British author whose works include
Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-four, and the essay
"Politics and the English Language," was the pen name of Eric
Arthur Blair. He was born in India on 25 June, 1903 and rose
to prominence as one of the 20th century's most influential
authors as a result of his biting critiques of
Gates' remarks, to a conference organised by the
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the
Information Technology Industry Council, come as the nation's
capital is weighing antiterrorism concerns against privacy and
other civil liberties. The US Department of Justice has
drafted a legislative proposal asking for more surveillance
powers, while congressional scrutiny of the Pentagon's
Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA) initiative is
Without taking a stand on the TIA system, which
previously was called Total Information Awareness, Gates
applauded increased information sharing between government
agencies. He cited current law-enforcement efforts to share
criminal databases, but predicted that, "unless this system is
properly connected to the entire Homeland Security command
structure, the potential will not be fully realised."
"We're proud to be involved in the effort to
connect a significant portion of the federal homeland-security
community into a national information-sharing and
intelligence-analysis network," Gates said.
In President Bush's State of the Union address in
January, he described a forthcoming government database --
called the Terrorist Threat Integration Center -- that would
compile information from all federal agencies and the private
sector on people deemed possible terrorist threats.
John Hamre, president of CSIS and a former deputy
secretary of defense, defended TIA in an afternoon speech that
followed Gates' remarks. "I think we need a domestic
surveillance organisation in this country... I think they're
really on to something," he said, talking about Admiral John
Poindexter's plans to create the TIA system.
Hamre said that critics of TIA, who have worried
that it may lead to the creation of a computerised dossier on
every American, are misinformed. "They've engineered privacy
into it... We need people to shoulder their honest
responsibilities for oversight."
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