We see online ads from websites we’ve visited, long after we’ve moved on to other interests. Our smartphones and cars transmit our location, enabling us to know what’s in the neighborhood but also enabling others to track us. And the federal government, we recently learned, has been conducting a massive data-gathering surveillance operation across the Internet and on our phone lines.
In Dragnet Nation, award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin reports from the front lines of America’s surveillance economy, offering a revelatory and unsettling look at how the government, private companies, and even criminals use technology to indiscriminately sweep up vast amounts of our personal data. In a world where we can be watched in our own homes, where we can no longer keep secrets, and where we can be impersonated, financially manipulated, or even placed in a police lineup, Angwin argues that the greatest long-term danger is that we start to internalize the surveillance and censor our words and thoughts, until we lose the very freedom that makes us unique individuals. Appalled at such a prospect, Angwin conducts a series of experiments to try to protect herself, ranging from quitting Google to carrying a “burner” phone, showing how difficult it is for an average citizen to resist the dragnets’ reach.
Her book is a cautionary tale for all of us, with profound implications for our values, our society, and our very selves.
Review: Unsettling is not the word for this book. I was downright freaked out by the stories Angwin told about regular people who were followed, taped, tapped, and trapped with their own personal data. It’s an accessible, fascinating, and disturbing tale about what the government and commercial entities are able to learn about you from your everyday behavior. Most of the time, this information is stored and never used, or used for middlingly nefarious purposes like targeted advertising, but depending on your gender, skin color, and spelling of your name, this information could easily becoming damning.
On the one hand, I feel like I’m not doing anything that is illegal or immoral or even terribly embarrassing, so I have nothing to hide. On the other hand, I feel like my actions on the phone, on the go, and on the web aren’t anyone’s business but my own – but it’s surprisingly easy for almost anyone to get that information. The difficulties Angwin encounters in being untrackable are far greater than those I can imagine putting into practice for my every day life (not carrying phones at all, carrying specific phones for specific people) but I’m glad I read this book to become more aware of what can be done with the devices I already use.
Source: Public library