Following Eyes


Are you being watched?

In the 1980’s (1984 to be more precise), the idea came about to develop a platform-independent graphics system or windowing system. On the open source Unix platform this became the X window system. Release 11 of X (X11) was in 1987. The X toolkit contained a demonstrative program ‘xeyes’ – a follow the mouse X demo – where Xeyes watches what you do and reports to the Boss.

As a computer scientist working in the field in the 1980’s these sorts of developments were fun. They’re still fun.

We have come a long way since 1987. Now your browser activity is tracked, Google knows everything about you, the American National Security Association is spying on you, police helicopters are in the sky watching as you walk your dog, and cameras are everywhere.

As a long time computer scientist I’ve seen the rush to develop computing technology to bring new services to the world. However, with expansion comes risk. Loss of privilege comes when people take improper advantage of new things. With the Internet and rapid communication and social media we now live in a world where online opinion often seems more important than published peer reviewed fact.

Are we going to lose our way? Where did I put my invisibility cloak?


1. Kurt Grigg: Following Eyes
2. Linux man page: xeyes