John Naughton: Forget Orwell and Huxley. Dave Eggers has seen the future

If you want an up-to-the-minute literary vision of where mass surveillance might take us, pop down to your local bookshop

Fifteen months have passed since Edward Snowden began to explain to us how our networked world works. During that time there has been much outrage, shock, horror, etc expressed by the media and the tech industry. So far, so predictable. What is much more puzzling is how relatively relaxed the general public appears to be about all this. In Britain, for example, opinion polling suggests that nearly two thirds of the population think that the kind of surveillance revealed by Snowden is basically OK.

To some extent, the level of public complacency/concern is culturally determined. Citizens of Germany, for example, appear to be significantly more concerned about the Snowden revelations and were so even before it was discovered that the NSA was bugging Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Germany was the European country where Google’s Streetview project ran into most opposition, for example. But German wariness about comprehensive surveillance is easy to understand: after all, half of the country lived for decades under the Stasi’s comprehensive analogue surveillance. Germans know all about being watched.

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