Big Brother is watching you

This post is NOT part of the Kalahari Series! 😉  Although I still have Kalahari photos to show and Kalahari stories to tell, I thought I’d give you all (and me) a break from it.

A while back I was out shopping and I saw the following headline on our local paper: “Big Brother is watching you“. I got all excited thinking it may be about a topic that I’m concerned about (more on that later). First, I should tell you about our local paper though.

We live in what is classified as a small city, but what I still think of as a big town. Meaning that people here are still more involved with the community than they might be in a city, and more than a little curious about what other folks are doing. Our local weekly paper reflects this. It’s a paper with some local stories (often told quite dramatically), information about local events, lots of local ads, a local sports section, a schools section (covering all school activities and events) and a very amusing “Letters to the Editor” section. Oh, and my personal favourite (which I page to as soon as I get the paper!), the SPCA (animal welfare) page with colour photos of the animals up for adoption. I like looking at the cute cats and dogs. We adopted Lucy (our cat) from there, and we regularly threaten her that we’re looking for her replacement! Anyway – getting back to the local paper – it can hardly be called a serious newspaper. Especially in light of the editorial pieces and the “letters to the editor”. It’s sometimes worth buying the paper for the entertainment value of that page alone! Generally people are not afraid to voice their (sometimes weird and always biased) views, and sometimes feuds are carried on over several weeks between individuals i.e. the kind of thing that a city newspaper editor would put a stop to very quickly.

Image via Google Street View

So when I saw this headline my first thought was “at last they’re going to talk about something I’m really concerned about“. In this case the fact that our little city is on Google Street View. I was shocked (when I was trying to figure out a route on Google maps a while back) to find out that detailed photographs of our street are available online. You can see what season it is, and because of some structural changes our neighbours made to their garden wall, I can figure out what month the footage was shot. From the way the shadows are falling it must have been in the afternoon. “Moving” up and down our road using the mouse, I can even see a neighbour walking his dog! It was in mid-summer, so I was obviously hiding out inside the house at the time. Now, not only can one check out our property using very good satellite images, criminals can “case” the house from the street. Not very re-assuring. I’m not anti all geographically based information. I’m a computer programmer with a special interest in Geographical Information Systems, so love GPSes and maps and satellite images. I’m just not sure I want strangers – from all over the world – checking out where I live.

I was disappointed, however, to find that the article was about the fact that the local city council was putting up CCTV cameras in the central business district. Where most of the official offices and the financial institutions are located. It seems though that some local people are worried that they will be caught on camera going about their daily business – or maybe in compromising positions? You never know in this town.  I’m not worried about that at all. Since I’m not a mugger, pick-pocket, drug dealer (yes, we have them here too), bank robber or having a clandestine extra-marital affair, I don’t care if they film me walking around town. In fact I welcome the CCTV cameras. They would have been especially useful the time four men sat inside an idling car, just outside one of the banks, engrossed in watching the entrance. Very suspicious behaviour! I made sure to leave the area with haste, before there was a chance I could get caught in any potential cross-fire.

This all has had me thinking that maybe I should start writing articles for the local paper about the things I think really matter?! Of course, I’ll have to stop exaggerating and being all dramatic about things . . .

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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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16 Comments on “Big Brother is watching you”

  1. October 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I would SOO love your local paper, Lisa!

    It must be particularly entertaining if you know the actual PEOPLE behind the Letters to the Editor – I can just imagine the amount of whispered-behind-the-hand and glancing-surreptitiously-over-ones-shoulder skinnering that goes on in response to the publication of another missive (missile) in a long drawn-out ‘feud’.


    Frankly, I don’t understand why the local paper hasn’t yet commissioned you to write A Weekly Perspective From A Local Blogger! I can just see it!

    Oooh, this would be sooo much fun… don’t you think? 😉

    • October 19, 2011 at 6:20 am #

      Ha! It depends how seriously you take the local paper. There are some reports where I knew the inside story, and the paper misrepresented the facts.Not good. I only know the “feuders” through their “letters to the editor”, but that’s pretty entertaining itself.

      I can’t see them ever offering me a column. I’m fairly “out of the loop” when it comes to what is happening locally. Spend too much time following bloggers from Cape Town and beyond! 😉

  2. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
    October 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Local papers are so much fun. As to the topic that concerns you, I find it interesting that so few people realize that we are actually, in some ways, living in the world described in 1984 . . . a world where we are watched almost everywhere we go, even going in and out of the house. It really is creepy.

    • October 19, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      Yes, Big Brother has kind of crept up on us, hasn’t it? Quietly, rather than with a big bang. I’m not sure whether people realize how much is also known about them through online services such as banking and shopping, and the use of cellphones. Scary, especially considering that most of us use this services willingly and can’t imagine life without them.

  3. October 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    I agree with Lisa and Reggie–the local paper sounds hysterical! And, yes, why not offer you a column.

    At the same time, I think I, too, would be weirded out by the satellite images of your street. But then I grew up in a home where our phones were tapped regularly, so I may be more sensitive to this stuff than most folks. I’ll come back with a link to the post I did about this.


  4. jacquelincangro
    October 19, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    Your newspaper sounds similar to the one where my mom lives. Actually newspaper is a subjective term. Where she lives it’s more like the gossip paper. Talk about big brother. If you see one of the “reporters” for this paper nearby, the best thing you can do is walk in the opposite direction immediately. 🙂

    • October 19, 2011 at 6:42 am #

      As you’ll notice, I don’t actually call our local paper a “newspaper”! 🙂 Oh, I’m unlikely to do anything newsworthy which will warrant the reporters approaching me!

  5. October 20, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    One thing I like to do when I visit a new city is buy the local paper and read the letters to the editor. They may not be representative of the people who live there, but they’re usually interesting and/or amusing.

    I don’t really buy into the “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind surveillance” argument. There’s nothing wrong with, for example, going to a clinic that specializes in treating cancer, or going to an addiction support group meeting, but people going to those places don’t always want to broadcast that fact.

    • October 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      I get your point – that comment was my feeble attempt at humor . . . I do realize that there are situations when people would quite legitimately not want to be filmed, and information that can be abused. Hopefully the security team monitoring the CCTV cameras in this case, will not divulge private info to the press. These camera are really just in the CBD where there are a lot of business and banks – an area that has been plagued by crime in recent years.

      • October 21, 2011 at 7:31 am #

        I think our opinions on this are probably influenced by where we live — I live in a low-crime area in a country in which I feel that civil liberties have been slowly eroded over the last decade.

        Oh, and I agree that seeing your house on google street view is kind of creepy. On the other hand, I had part of my roof replaced, and I was delighted when the satellite view was finally updated to reflect that change.

      • October 21, 2011 at 9:06 am #

        Yes, if they’re going to invade your privacy and put your house up online for all to see, the least they could do is keep the data up to date! 😉

  6. October 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    If it’s any consolation, Google probably won’t update the photos for the map any time soon. There’s a photo of my husband’s former employer’s business on there that still shows our former vehicle in the parking lot, and beings how I know this, I know that the photo is 4 years old. Also, I don’t think most burglars are smart enough to check out Google Maps first. Usually, they just wait and watch for when someone is leaving their house.

    • October 23, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      You’re right about them not updating the photos regularly. It must be incredibly time consuming and expensive to do so.

      That bit about the burglars was my attempt at humor . . . and I’ve been reading too many spy novels! 😉

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