In the Age of Terror, the issue of data retention and government surveillance has become of paramount importance. In Data and Goliath, security expert Bruce Schneier shows just how frighteningly meaningless the notion of privacy has become. Your cell phone provider tracks your location and knows who’s with you. Your online and in-store purchasing patterns are recorded, and reveal if you’re unemployed, sick, or pregnant. Your e-mails and texts expose your intimate and casual friends. Google knows what you’re thinking because it saves your private searches. Facebook can determine your sexual orientation without you ever mentioning it.
The powers that survey us do more than simply store this information. Corporations use surveillance to manipulate not only the news articles and advertisements we each see, but also the prices we’re offered. Governments use surveillance to discriminate, censor, chill free speech, and put people in danger worldwide. And both sides share this information with each other or, even worse, lose it to cyber criminals in huge data breaches.
Much of this is voluntary: we cooperate with corporate surveillance because it promises us convenience, and we submit to government surveillance because it promises us protection. The result is a mass surveillance society of our own making. But have we given up more than we’ve gained? In Data and Goliath,
security expert Bruce Schneier offers another path, one that values both security and privacy. He shows us exactly what we can do to reform our government surveillance programs and shake up surveillance-based business models, while also providing tips for you to protect your privacy every day. You’ll never look at your phone, your computer, your credit cards, or even your car in the same way again.
There is no doubt that Bruce Schneier’s Data and Goliath is one of this year’s absolute must read books. Here’s an extract from the Introduction:
“If you need to be convinced that you’re living in a science fiction world, look at your cell phone. it is cute, sleek, incredibly powerful tool has become so central to our lives that we take it for granted. It seems perfectly normal to pull this device out of your pocket, no matter where you are on the planet, and use it to talk to someone else, no matter where the person is on the planet. Yet every morning when you put your cell phone in your pocket, you’re making an implicit bargain with the carrier: “I want to make and receive mobile calls; in exchange, I allow this company to know where I am at all times. The bargain
isn’t specified in any contract, but it’s inherent in how the service works. You probably hadn’t thought about it, but now that I’ve pointed it out, you might well think it’s a pretty good bargain. Cell phones really are great, and they can’t work unless the cell phone companies know where you are, which means they keep you under their surveillance.
This is a very intimate form of surveillance. Your cell phone tracks where you live and where you work. It tracks where you like to spend your weekends and evenings. It tracks how often you go to church (and which church), how much time you spend in a bar, and whether you speed when you drive. It tracks—since it knows about all the other phones in your area—whom you spend your days with, whom you meet for lunch, and whom you sleep with. The accumulated data can probably paint a better picture of how you spend your time than you can, because it doesn’t have to rely on human memory. In 2012, researchers were able to use this data to predict where people would be 24 hours later, to within 20 meters. Before cell phones, if someone wanted to know all of this, he would have had to hire a private investigator to follow you around taking notes. Now that job is obsolete; the cell phone in your pocket does all of this automatically. It might be that no one retrieves that information, but it is there for the taking.
Your location information is valuable, and everyone wants access to it. The police want it. Cell phone location analysis is useful in criminal investigations in several different ways. The police can “ping” a particular phone to determine where it is, use historical data to determine where it has been, and collect all the cell phone location data from a specific area to figure out who was there and when. More and more, police are using this data for exactly these purposes. Governments also use this same data for intimidation and social control.
Praise for Schneier’s Data and Goliath: “The public conversation about surveillance in the digital age would be a good deal more intelligent if we all read Bruce Schneier first.” — Malcolm Gladwell “Bruce Schneier has written a hugely insightful and important book about how big data and its cousin, mass surveillance, affect our lives, and what to do about it. In characteristic fashion, Schneier takes very complex and varied information and ideas and makes them vivid, accessible, and compelling.” — Jack Goldsmith, former head of the US Office of Legal Counsel. “Schneier did not need the Snowden revelations, as important as they are, to understand the growing threat to personal privacy worldwide from government and corporate surveillance-he’s been raising the alarm for nearly two decades. But this important book does more than detail the threat; it tells the average low-tech citizen what steps he or she can take to limit surveillance, and thus fight those are seeking to strip privacy from all of us.” — Seymour M. Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. “A judicious and incisive analysis of one of the most pressing new issues of our time, written by a true expert.” — Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature.