Defeating Little Brother requires a new outlook on privacy: Lock and Code S04E23

This week on the Lock and Code podcast…

A worrying trend is cropping up amongst Americans, particularly within Generation Z—they’re spying on each other more.

Whether reading someone’s DMs, rifling through a partner’s text messages, or even rummaging through the bags and belongings of someone else, Americans enjoy keeping tabs on one another, especially when they’re in a relationship. According to recent research from Malwarebytes, a shocking 49% of Gen Zers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Being able to track my spouse’s/significant other’s location when they are away is extremely important to me.”

On the Lock and Code podcast with host David Ruiz, we’ve repeatedly tackled the issue of surveillance, from the NSA’s mass communications surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden, to the targeted use of Pegasus spyware against human rights dissidents and political activists, to the purchase of privately-collected location data by state law enforcement agencies across the country. But the type of surveillance we’re talking about today is different. It isn’t so much “Big Brother”—a concept introduced in the socio-dystopian novel 1984 by author George Orwell. It’s “Little Brother.”

As far back as 2010, in a piece titled “Little Brother is Watching,” author Walter Kirn wrote for the New York Times:

 “As the internet proves every day, it isn’t some stern and monolithic Big Brother that we have to reckon with as we go about our daily lives, it’s a vast cohort of prankish Little Brothers equipped with devices that Orwell, writing 60 years ago, never dreamed of and who are loyal to no organized authority. The invasion of privacy — of others’ privacy but also our own, as we turn our lenses on ourselves in the quest for attention by any means — has been democratized.”

Little Brother is us, recording someone else on our phones and then posting it on social media. Little Brother is us, years ago, Facebook stalking someone because they’re a college crush. Little Brother is us, watching a Ring webcam of a delivery driver, including when they are mishandling a package but also when they are doing a stupid little dance that we requested so we could post it online and get little dopamine hits from the Likes. Little Brother is our anxieties being soothed by watching the shiny blue GPS dots that represent our husbands and our wives, driving back from work.

Little Brother isn’t just surveillance. It is increasingly popular, normalized, and accessible surveillance. And it’s creeping its way into more and more relationships every day. 

So, what can stop it? 

Today, we speak with our guests, Malwarebytes security evangelist Mark Stockley and Malwarebytes Labs editor-in-chief Anna Brading, about the apparent “appeal” of Little Brother surveillance, whether the tenets of privacy can ever fully defeat that surveillance, and what the possible merits of this surveillance could be, including, as Stockley suggested, in revealing government abuses of power. 

“My question to you is, as with all forms of technology, there are two very different sides for this. So is it bad? Is it good? Or is it just oxygen now?” 

Tune in today to listen to the full conversation.

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Show notes and credits:

Intro Music: “Spellbound” by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Outro Music: “Good God” by Wowa (