A long time ago, in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was an awkward and (even more) geeky high school student who, like every other Canadian high school student, had to read George Orwell's novel 1984.
Unless you've been in a coma since 1949 (when the book was published), or recently received a severe blow to the head that's caused amnesia, you'll likely remember Orwell's dystopian work about protagonist Winston Smith and his rebellion against the all-watching Big Brother.
That's the oppressive, evil, propaganda-spewing government Big Brother, not the equally evil, drivel-spewing Big Brother reality TV show - for all you coma and amnesia patients.
When I first read the book, our world was a lot more low-tech and the only computers around were Commodore 64s. So while the idea of Big Brother watching everyone was indeed scary, it was all pretty sci-fi and unimaginable in a real-world sense.
But since the carefree and kid-free days of my youth, lots of real-life technology has caught up with sci-fi and we increasingly do find ourselves having to watch for just who exactly it is watching us.
Sure, online privacy has been a well-worn subject of late, but most of those reports and articles have dealt with all the things people shouldn't do online, like revealing passwords, putting too much personal information on Facebook and posting those embarrassing pictures of you with too many tequilas on your bar tab and the lampshade on your head.
But in recent weeks, the subject of online privacy has taken on a decidedly more ominous and Orwellian tone.
It's been revealed that Google, when its team of camera cars were zooming around the world taking pictures for the Google Earth Street View application, was collecting a lot more than just photos.
According to investigations that took place worldwide, the search giant collected millions of pieces of sensitive information from people's home or office computers via its Street View cars.
Google said it was all a mistake and it had only been trying to map Hotspots (where Wi-Fi open signals could be found), but that the personal data was collected because of code mistakenly included in the Street View software.
That's a pretty big mistake, and as British MP Robert Halfon said during a Parliamentary debate, "I find it hard to believe that a company with the creative genius and originality of Google could map the personal Wi-Fi details, computer passwords and e-mail addresses of millions of people across the world and not know what it was doing."
So, either some folks at Google are really incompetent or they're lying. Big Brother-esque jerks.
Either is a pretty scary notion.
But it isn't just Google.
A bunch of Facebook application developers were punished recently because they sold identifying user information to a data broker.
Basically when you bought or downloaded one of these apps for your Facebook page, they would take your user ID and other personal information from your profile and then sell the information to marketers and such.
But Facebook came down hard on these developers and gave them a wait for it six-month ban.
Wow. I bet that sets an example.
Since we can't do anything about these breaches, it's up to legislators and our governments to impose stricter laws and real, tough punishments on those caught invading our online privacy.
Hey, maybe we can send them to a galaxy far, far away.