From what your Internet service provider knows about you to Wikileaks to Edward Snowden, the topic of privacy, big data, and clandestine operations of all kinds continues to contribute to the national zeitgeist. Here are five timely books exploring a number of aspects of the intertwined conversation.
- Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin (Times: Holt).
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist with years of experience covering privacy issues details her yearlong experiment trying to protect her personal information and habits, from using disposable cell phones to sending encrypted email.
- The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird (Crown).
It is hard to escape the whole John le Carré ethos of the current conversation. For a history of a real-life spy, consider Bird’s highly esteemed account of the life of one of the CIA’s most notable agents—the man who died trying to help solve the conflicts in the Middle East.
- No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan: Holt).
The reporter who broke the story of the Edward Snowden leaks details how he came in contact with the 29-year-old National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, their clandestine meetings in Hong Kong (complete with details of spycraft), and his opinions on a wide range of issues including the “establishment media” and the surveillance state.
- The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding (Vintage).
With more than a touch of spy thriller, Harding lays out the Edward Snowden story in detail, basing much upon the reporting in the Guardian, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. His high-tension story also delves into privacy concerns, largely those of Britain, as well as the newspaper business.
- Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger & Kenneth Cukier (Eamon Dolan: Houghton Harcourt).
The big idea behind big data is that it creates the ability to make better predictions. Yet, that data gets huge because it is taken from millions of individuals—almost always without their active and informed consent. This book explores both aspects of big data—the future prospects and its troubling risks.