Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dragnet Nation Makes NY Times Best Seller List


Dragnet Nation is #24 on the New York Times best seller list for hardcover nonfiction.

Q&A With Popular Mechanics

Read my Q&A with Popular Mechanics‘s Davey Alba, where I discuss privacy as a human right, and how technology can help us reclaim it.

Read the full interview here.

Reviews of Dragnet Nation

“Angwin elegantly chronicles this tragedy of the digital commons at the level of policy and our individual civil liberties. . . .Dragnet Nation really kicks in—and becomes a blast to read—when she fights back. As she transforms herself into the invisible woman online, the book becomes by turns spy novel, a how-to guide, and a rumination on the politics of software. . . .  If enough people follow Angwin’s lead, new networks of computer users might manage to open up ever larger holes in the dragnet world.”
-Clive Thompson, Bookforum (read full review here)

“A deeply researched book that is completely of the moment. Dragnet Nation moves right to the top of the list of books we should all read about privacy.”
-Andrew Leonard, (read full review here)

“Angwin builds a compelling case that, even for the broader public, the post-9/11 acceptance of foregoing privacy for safety was a bad and unnecessary trade—that ‘some research suggests that collecting vast amounts of data simply can’t predict rare events like terrorism,’ but it will turn common connections into red flags.”
Kira Goldenberg, Columbia Journalism Review (read full review here)

“Angwin’s struggle with the panoply of counter-surveillance tools—even when armed with time, some money to spare, and the help of leading data privacy experts—shows that laypeople don’t stand a fighting chance. As Angwin notes, what we will need are new laws regulating how companies can collect and use information on us.”
Lina Khan, American Prospect (read full review here)

“A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist describes today’s world of indiscriminate surveillance and tries to evade it. Angwin (Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America, 2009), who spent years covering privacy issues for the Wall Street Journal, draws on conversations with researchers, hackers and IT experts, surveying the modern dragnet tracking made possible by massive computing power, smaller devices and cheap storage of data…. A solid work for both privacy freaks and anyone seeking tips on such matters as how to strengthen passwords (make them longer and avoid simple dictionary words).”
-Kirkus Reviews (read full review here)

“Angwin . . . releases the contemporary (and, unfortunately, nonfiction) companion book to Orwell’s 1984. Dragnet Nation examines the surveillance economy and its effect on free speech and thought, likely causing readers to rethink the next words they type into a search engine.”
-Daniel Davis-Williams, Los Angeles Magazine (read full review here)

“There is a sense of despair when it comes to privacy in the digital age. Many of us assume that so much of our electronic information is now compromised – whether by corporations or government agencies – that there is little that can be done about it. Sometimes we try to rationalise this by telling ourselves privacy may no longer matter so much. After all, an upstanding citizen should have nothing to fear from surveillance. In Dragnet Nation, Julia Angwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Wall Street Journal, seeks to challenge that defeatism.”
-Maija Palmer, Financial Times (read full review here)

“Angwin points to case studies and research that show relentless surveillance is creating a culture of fear that has already begun to chill basic freedoms. . . . Angwin’s warning that ‘information is power’ resonates.”
-Jake Whitney, The Daily Beast (read full review here)

“[Dragnet Nation] is a good primer on the technologies and practices undergirding our culture of surveillance.”
-Jacob Silverman, Los Angeles Times (read full review here)

“Julia Angwin, who oversaw a pioneering series of Wall Street Journalarticles called “What They Know”, starting in 2010, exposes many of the questionable activities that erode privacy—activities that most people know nothing about.”
The Economist (read full review here Interview

I spoke with‘s Andrew Leonard about writing Dragnet Nation, Edward Snowden, and the marketplace for privacy. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Why did you write this book?

I’ve been on this beat for four years. I wrote the book because I felt that all my stories were really scary — they are tracking you here, they are tracking you there — but they weren’t actionable; in other words, people couldn’t figure out what to do about it. I was hopeful a book could provide some advice.

What was it like to be working on the book when the Snowden bombshells started to fall?

I still remember where was I standing when the first Snowden revelation about the Verizon secret order for the phone dragnet came out. My whole world was just turned upside down. I had been chasing that story because I had heard that that it was true. A lot of people that followed this issue had suspected it was going on, but no one had ever seen the proof. It was just mindboggling to see how vast it was. And then what happened after that, the continual flow, I mean even to this day, every week, there has been a new revelation.

Read the full interview, along with a review of Dragnet Nation, on

Dragnet Nation on PRI

I appeared on Public Radio International, where I talked about wrapping my cell phone in tin foil and other attempts to protect my privacy chronicled in Dragnet Nation. Listen to the interview below, or read a summary, along with an excerpt from the book.

Dragnet Nation on NPR’s “All Tech Considered”

Dragnet Nation was featured on NPR’s “All Tech Considered.” Read the  transcript, or listen below.

Appearance on “This Is Hell” WNUR 89.3 FM in Chicago

I talked with Chuck Mertz on “This is Hell” (WNUR 89.3 FM in Chicago) about surveillance and government power, why privacy is necessary in a free society, and the fun of using search engines that remember nothing about you. Listen to the full conversation below.

Interview on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco

Listen to my conversation about Dragnet Nation with Rose Aguilar on “Your Call” on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco.

New York Times Op-Ed: Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?

The following article appeared in the Opinion pages of the  New York Times on March 3, 2014.

LAST year, I spent more than $2,200 and countless hours trying to protect my privacy.

Some of the items I bought — a $230 service that encrypted my data in the Internet cloud; a $35 privacy filter to shield my laptop screen from coffee-shop voyeurs; and a $420 subscription to a portable Internet service to bypass untrusted connections — protect me from criminals and hackers. Other products, like a $5-a-month service that provides me with disposable email addresses and phone numbers, protect me against the legal (but, to me, unfair) mining and sale of my personal data.

In our data-saturated economy, privacy is becoming a luxury good. After all, as the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. And currently, we aren’t paying for very much of our technology.

Not long ago, we would have bought services as important to us as mail and news. Now, however, we get all those services for free — and we pay with our personal data, which is spliced and diced and bought and sold.

Consider Google, which scans what you write in Gmail to offer advertisers a chance to promote their items based on your missives. Or a visit to an online news site where your data is secretly auctioned and sold before the page loads. Or Facebook, which allows marketers to turn your status updates into ads for their products.

Continue reading at

Privacy ToolsPurposeCost
hard drivebackup data storage$119.99
MiFiportable Internet connection$419.88
1Passwordpassword management software$69.99
shreddershred documents$61.98
flash drivestransfer files securely$30
MaskMe disposable identity service$30
walkie-talkiesunmonitored short-range communications $57.94
Riseupe-mail service (donation)$100
Postboxe-mail software$9.95
Silent Circleencryption phone software$124.80
Virgin Mobileprepaid phone charges$440
Off Pocketcellphone Faraday cage$85
Delete Medata broker opt-out service$209
MailStop Shielddata broker opt-out service$35
Acxiom info-request fee (Acxiom required me to send in $5 to obtain my data)$5
laptop privacy filterprevent snoopers$34.05
SpiderOakencrypted cloud storage$232
Access Denied RFID shielded wallet

“Privacy Piracy” radio interview

I appeared on the “Privacy Piracy” radio program on KUCI 88.1 FM, Irvine, CA to talk about Dragnet Nation. Listen below: