Books

Dragnet Nation

Dragnet Nation cover artWe are being watched. 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, Julia Angwin of The Wall Street Journal reports from the front lines of America’s surveillance economy, 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.

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (Times Books, February 2014) is available now, from Amazon.com, Barnes & NobleIndiebound, and Macmillan.

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Stealing MySpace

Stealing MySpace chronicles the rise and fall of the website that made social networking a household name.

MySpace was the unlikeliest of ventures—barely funded, technologically inept, conceptually derivative and driven by rivalries. Award winning journalist Julia Angwin traces MySpace’s history from its humble beginnings as a spam and spyware distributor, as it stumbled its way to the top. It is a surprising story that features an all-star cast of characters including pinup star Tila Tequila, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and rock star Bono.

Central to the MySpace story is an epic battle for control that climaxed when MySpace was secretly sold to Murdoch behind the backs of founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson.

Meticulously reported with extensive endnotes, Stealing MySpace is a fast-moving business narrative reminiscent of Kurt Eichenwald’s Conspiracy of Fools and Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s Barbarians at the Gate.

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