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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Privacy Advocates Contend Merger Creates Big Brother

NEW YORK -- Privacy advocates, consumers and academics have raised concerns that the merger of Internet giant America Online and media titan Time Warner could enhance the Internet's already dangerous tendency to invade people's lives.

Under the deal, America Online, whose 22 million subscribers now use telephone lines to go online, will gain access to Time Warner's cable television systems with faster and better quality connections.

The firms dismissed the image of a "Big Brother" controlling every aspect of people's lives - as George Orwell envisaged in his novel "1984" - insisting the $164 billion merger was really aimed at making the world a better place by fighting social ills.

"This is not just about big business. This is not just about money," Levin said. "This is about making a better world for people because we now have the technology and the instruments to do that."

But Internet services can already monitor what users watch or read or what they order online and many people see the latest business marriage as one more step toward Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian world. They saw in Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin's altruism, the cynical "doublespeak" of Orwell's future.

"If you look at it from the perspective of Orwell, it's scary," said Gary Klatsky, assistant professor of psychology at Oswego State University in New York.