CNET may have a prospective Christmas gift for you. As its post says, "Big Brother has arrived -- and it's you."
Developed by German company Osmotic Studios, the game Orwell (available as a pre-order for $9.95) has you working as a new recruit in a surveillance agency of the same name, following a series of terrorist attacks in Bonton, the fictional capital of The Nation. As an agent, you are responsible for scraping social media feeds, blogs, news sites and the private communications of the Nation's citizens to find those with connections to the bombings.
You start with your first suspect before working through a web of friends and associates. You're after data chunks -- highlighted pieces of information and text found in news stories, websites and blogs that can be dragged and uploaded into the Orwell system and permanently stored as evidence.
In Orwell, you're tasked with tracking the online lives of The Nation's citizens, monitoring their communications and building a surveillance profile. The game is reported to be unsettling and beguiling.
It all seems above board at first, reading publicly-available information online. But before long you're reading private chat logs, intercepting phone calls and wandering into ethical grey areas. When it comes to timeline posts and private chats, just how accurate is each data chunk you save? And how much can the private messages of others be construed as evidence of criminal intent?
Now you are a member of the online thought police – how will you react? Will you feel moral repulsion? Will you get captivated by your role? How will you balance privacy vs. security?
While Orwell's polygon aesthetic is more abstract than many games, the game still closely mimics an online world that players know intimately. "Facebook stalking" is part of the modern lexicon, and we've all had to work out how much we're willing to share about our lives online. Orwell puts us on the other side of the looking glass.
You may find yourself repeating an oft-heard government line: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Then again . . .
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Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology