Sign up for email alerts, from breaking news to weekly commentary:
Meet Big Brother's corporate cousin
British author George Orwell's novel, "1984," warned about the coming of an all-seeing Big Brother government. Sure enough, Britain today has a massive system of ubiquitous closed circuit television cameras in place so police can keep a constant watch on the citizenry. One of these camera networks, positioned at each of England's petrol stations, is meant to deter drivers from filling up, then fleeing without paying. But now, Big Brotherism at the gas stations is merging with Big Corporatism to create a whole new Orwellian nightmare.
Apparently, someone with Ernst & Young, the American accounting and management giant, noticed the gas station cameras and shouted: "Eureka!" The firm quickly convinced the Prime Minister's office to convert these cameras into a means of arresting motorists who haven't bought auto insurance. Henceforth, surveillance cameras (oppressively named "Automatic Number Place Recognition" cameras) will snap a shot of each vehicle's license plate before fueling can begin. The photo links directly to the huge database of the national licensing bureau, and if it tags the vehicle as uninsured – no go! – the system's computer will stop the pump from fueling that vehicle.
"The key to this is simplicity," gushed an Ernst & Young executive. Well, simplicity for the government... and profitability for its corporate cousin, which is implementing the new gotcha technology. Still, exclaims the Ernst executive, "There shouldn't be concerns about 'big brother' because [it's] simply a new rule of no insurance equals no fuel."
How simply wrong! The path to oppression is usually paved with promises of technological simplicity – in this case, notice that every customer is presumed to be guilty, forcing each one to delay fueling and submit to a camera and computer search every time they buy gas.
"Cameras at U.K. gas stations will block uninsured drivers from refueling," www.yahoo.com, March 14, 2012.