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Here's a suggestion to help folks fight against official (and unofficial) lies and distortions.

Most of us are aware of the "Big Brother" concept of total observation made famous in Orwell's "1984." It was a scary idea back then. It still is.

But what we are seeing today is something Orwell failed to take into account, the idea that technology could be made cheap and effective enough that everyday citizens would also have in hand those same powers of observation enjoyed by the state.

With cameras now included routinely in today's cell phones we find ourselves viewing pictures of everything from images of abuse in Iraqi prisons to pics like this one of Iranian police engaged in an unlawful entry as they hunt for protesters.


This sort of documentation, a snapshot of reality, is truly effective as we have seen with the Abu Graib and the death of Neda photos, among many others.

Visual still images and live video are enormously important, but to maximize the effectiveness of information gathering in order to act as an "honest witness" we also need to document audio. Who said what, and when they said it. Imagine a large crowd where everyone was recording the audio of the event taking place. There would be no more "He said - he said" arguments where the corrupt get away with lies and deceit. Just the truth.

Cell phones were indeed created to transmit audio, but only that of the voice of their owner. In fact, sophisticated signal processing takes place within the phones to cut out all but the voice of the user.

Technically, what is needed to make these devices a truly effective weapon of truth is very little. A small microphone jack in order to add a good mike, perhaps even a long-range one, and a bit of onboard memory to store audio when the cell system has been shut down. Better phones already include audio note taking. All that's missing is the little jack to connect an external mike.

Technically, that's it. Practically speaking, what is needed is a large group of users who demand the feature be added to their phones, or it simply won't be. If we don't raise hell to get the tool we need we just won't get it. That's just the way these things work.

So let's see what we can do to push the cell phone manufacturers to add this little feature, and make 2010 the year of "Little Brother."

Originally posted to John West on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM PDT.

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