Big Brother in the electronic age

WE’RE a big country so I guess it’s understandable that not only is Big Brother watching — but now it’s Big Sister, Big Uncle, Big Aunt, Big Whoever. It’s becom ing a Big Mother of an operation.

OK, we know about pat-downs at the airport that, for some of us, are the only time we have any physical body contact at all so let’s not knock that. But isn’t this whole invasion-of-privacy thing overdone? No place a private citizen can be private anymore. If a nice lady ends up in bed with a semi-nice guy in the so-called privacy of her own nice bedroom, she still can’t be sure she’s not being filmed. Spooks tell you super-mini-cameras can be tucked not only behind a painting or in a light fixture but in your ear, up your nose, between your toes or, with the greatest respect, God knows.

E-mail. The new generation doesn’t even know how to write longhand. Stationery has gone the way of papyrus. Stamps may be going up but letters are going down. Everyone e-mails. A guy’s breaking up with his longtime live-in? He does it by e-mail. You’re receiving a legal document? Comes by e-mail. A dumb married South Carolina governor getting it on with an overheated unmarried lady in downtown Argentina upchucks about the wonders of scratching her itch — on e-mail! Lawyers warn that you must be careful of e-mail. That there’s no way to ever get rid of it. That it’ll remain there longer than a hair transplant.

ATMs? These machines have big mouths. They know what you took and where you were when you took it. Can’t tell the missus you were in Cleveland on business when your ATM will state that on such-and-such particular Thursday you were in hot Buenos Aires pulling cash for a hot time on a hot bod.