Big Brother

This is a conversation or speaking activity about the concept of Big Brother and state surveillance. We also have a reading comprehension exercise about George Orwell.

About this Exercise.

  • Exercise Type: Conversation / speaking.
  • Question Types: Open-ended conversation questions.
  • Level: B2 / C1
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Objective: For students to discover and use new vocabulary by talking about the moral, legal and technological aspects of surveillance.
  • Instructions:

Conversation: Who is Big Brother?

Have you read the book 1984? What do we mean when we talk about “big brother” in the context government?

Watch this video about 1894 by George Orwell and find out then answer the questions below.

Who was George Orwell?

Why is his book, 1984, still relevant today?

Who watches you? Who is Big Brother?

Check out our Orwell reading-comprehension exercise!

Although Orwell imagined Big Brother as part of the apparatus of state, many technology companies now have a lot of power to monitor you and your behaviour.

Watch this short documentary and answer the questions below in groups.

What social media do you have? What companies or individuals own these platforms? What do they do with your date?

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Conversation: Your expectations of privacy

Which of the following things would you be comfortable with an employer asking you about? Who would you be comfortable trusting this information to?

  • Who did you vote for in the last election?
  • Are you a member of any political party or organisation?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Are you a follower of any specific religion? Which one? Which denomination?
  • What is your sexuality?
  • Have you ever consumed any non-prescription drugs?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have any illnesses, diseases or disabilities?
  • Do you have any sexual fetishes or preferences?

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Why?

“If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”

Upton Sinclair, The Profits of Religion, 1917

Watch this video about how people react when being overtly filmed.

WARNING! This video contains examples of strong language and threatening behaviour. It is not appropriate for young or sensitive learners.

How would you react if Surveillance Camera Man was recording you?

Are you often recorded in public? Who by?

Are there many security cameras in your city?

Do you have cameras at home?

Do you feel differently about being monitored by CCTV in the street and by private individuals with mobile phones? Why? Why not? In what ways are these things different?

Conversation: Working with Big Brother

Does you employer monitor your internet use at work?

What else does your employer monitor?

Have you ever heard of bossware?

How would you feel if your boss used this software?

If you were the boss, would you use this software to monitor your employees?

Do you think that this type of monitoring should be illegal?

What would you do if your company implemented this type of monitoring?

Check out some other posts from the Onlearn.es blog

You can find a wide variety of topics here with interesting videos, quizzes, questions as well as useful vocabulary and grammar!

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