Advertising screens shaped like enormous human eyes have been installed in Birmingham, England, reported the BBC this week. The screens, which sit above three entrances to a newly-designed rail station in the city, have a dual purpose: firstly, to scan passers-by in order to try sell them the right kind of trash they don’t need, and secondly to record their every move.
“They use cutting-edge facial recognition technology to profile groups of passengers and shoppers before picking which adverts to display,” explains the anchor. The eyes are made up of 500+ individual television screens, which act as “hidden cameras that will effectively look at people as they come in and out of the station.” These cameras are sophisticated enough to determine the gender, age and demographic group of individuals as they walk by, and will be the biggest ever installed in the UK when the train station re-opens next month.
But the blatantly Orwellian design of the screens- which seem to say ‘Yes suckers, Big Brother is watching you, and at this point he’s not even hiding the fact’- isn’t the worst thing about this news. What’s even more disturbing than these intrusive gigantic digital eyes is the general public’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the issue of mass surveillance. Here are the comments a reporter heard while asking passers-by their opinions:
“Ahhh, it’s the way things are going with technology now. I wouldn’t be worried about it,” says the first interviewee.
“That’s amazing,” gushes the second.
“I think it’s quite cool in terms of technology and the way the future is evolving and so on,” agrees a third.
While it’s entirely possible (and very likely) that the BBC edited these vox pops to leave viewers with a positive opinion of modern-day surveillance technologies, the sad fact is that the reactions here are mirrored across British society.
In fact, most people in the UK have never heard of George Orwell, let alone read his terrifying novel 1984 which undoubtedly inspired the contemporary concept of Big Brother spy programs. Maybe we need to start a campaign to get this accurate portrayal of our contemporary society on the reading list of every school in the country (if not the world)…