Mothers, Brothers, and Cookies

by | May 14, 2021 | ICT4D |


Many of us have heard of ‘Big Brother’ watching you, but have you heard of ‘Big Mother’? The promise of the modern digital society is that our computers will be able to second guess us, providing for our every need like some form of digital mother. While most of us are unlikely to have heard the term, we are familiar with the promise. The challenge is that big brother and big mother are two sides of the same coin. One could argue that the low petrol light in your car is a tiny illustration of big mother. But also using google maps to help navigate your way to a shop is also big mother, while big tech selling your location data and patterns is big brother.

Deciding where the line of help and surveillance is, is very subjective. We all have different views on it. We also have different understandings of what is happening too. If we did have greater understanding and more choice, we likely would be overwhelmed and quickly experience decision fatigue. Queue pop up box asking for consent to place a cookie on your device in exchange for you accessing the website.

And while we diverted to cookies, think about that for a moment. A cookie. A cookie is almost universally seen as a good thing, so of course they are good right? Calling it a cookie made it acceptable. Imagine your reaction if you were asked each time you went to a site ‘are you ok with us putting a tracking device on your machine so we can collect data about you?’ That’s a lot less cookie like.

Most of us don’t want our lives to be tracked and watched. But most of us also don’t want to constantly be making decisions about our data. We need to figure out a better way forward. In the meantime, I’m going to make some cookies (the edible kind).

Photo by Pam Menegakis


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