Diceware Passwords

When I was reporting my book, Dragnet Nation, I was looking for a way to build long, strong passwords. I came across a method called Diceware for creating passwords of randomly selected dictionary words that are easy to remember. But it involved rolling dice many times for each password – and so, feeling lazy, I hired my daughter to make the passwords for me.

Fast forward two years, and she has put the password business online at DicewarePasswords.com. Her business has attracted a bunch of media attention. Here’s a roundup of some of the best coverage:

This 11-year-old is selling cryptographically secure passwords for $2 each — Ars Technica.

Your Password Solution, Courtesy of an 11-year-old with her Own Start-Up, NPR’s The Takeaway with John Hockenberry.

Secure Passwords for Sale – Pix11 Morning News

A New York sixth-grader is selling really strong passwords for $2 each — Quartz.

Need a stronger password? 11-year-old Mira Modi will sell you a secure phrase for $2 – New York Daily News.
For $2, this 11-year-old girl will create you a virtually uncrackable password – Upworthy.

Journalist of the Year Award from the Newswomen’s Club

I’ve received the 2014 Front Page Award for Newswoman of the Year from the Newswomen’s Club in New York. Also honored by the Newswomen’s Club is my ProPublica colleague Megan McCloskey, who was recognized for in-depth reporting. The awards will be presented on Nov. 13 in New York City; read the press release here.

Dragnet Nation Shortlisted for Financial Times Award

Dragnet Nation is one of six books on the shortlist for the Financial Times’s Business Book of the Year Award. Other books in the running are Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century; The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee; Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull; Hack Attack by Nick Davies; and House of Debt by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 11. Till then, follow updates on Twitter @bbya14.

Dragnet Nation in Running for FT’s ‘Business Book of the Year’

Dragnet Nation is among the 16 books in contention to be named “Business Book of the Year” by the Financial Times. Other titles in the running are Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century and Nick Davies’s Hack Attack. (See the longlist here.) FT will narrow the list to up to 6 finalists on Sept. 24, and announce the £30,000 prize-winner on Nov. 11.

Time’s “Best Twitter Feeds of 2014”

TwitterI was included on Time.com’s “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2014.”

“No one is better at tracking the twists and turns in the debate over privacy and surveillance than Julia Angwin,” writes Chris Wilson.

For more, follow me @JuliaAngwin.

Dragnet Nation Makes NY Times Best Seller List


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

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, Salon.com (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

Dragnet Nation on NPR’s “All Tech Considered”

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

Bill Moyers on Dragnet Nation

In a video essay, Bill Moyers recommends Dragnet Nation, calling it “an antidote to Big Brother’s chill.”

Watch below, or read a transcript here.

Dragnet Nation: Available Now

Dragnet Nation cover art

My book, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance is now available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. Here’s the description and some reviews:

Who’s Watching You, What They Know and Why it Matters


We 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 is an impressive picture of the new world of electronic surveillance—from Google to the NSA. Julia Angwin’s command of the technology is sure, her writing is clear, and her arguments are compelling. This is an authoritative account of why we should care about privacy and how we can protect ourselves.”
—Bruce Schneier, author of Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive

“In this thought-provoking, highly accessible exploration of the issues around personal data-gathering, Julia Angwin provides a startling account of how we’re all being tracked, watched, studied, and sorted. Her own (often very funny) attempts to maintain her online privacy demonstrate the ubiquity of the dragnet—and the near impossibility of evading it. I’ll never use Google in the same way again.”
—Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of Happier at Home and The Happiness Project

“Julia Angwin’s pathbreaking reporting for the Wall Street Journal about online tracking changed the privacy debate. Her new book represents another leap forward: by showing how difficult it was to protect her own privacy and vividly describing the social and personal costs, Angwin offers both a wakeup call and a thoughtful manifesto for reform. This is a meticulously documented and gripping narrative about why privacy matters and what we can do about it.”
—Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO, National Constitution Center, and author of The Unwanted Gaze and The Naked Crowd

Dragnet Nation is a fascinating, compelling, and powerful read. Many of us would simply prefer not to know how much others know about us, and yet Julia Angwin opens a door onto that dark world in a way that both raises a new set of public issues and canvasses a range of solutions. We can reclaim our privacy while still enjoying the benefits of many types of surveillance – but only if we take our heads out of the sand and read this book.”
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO, New America