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

Posted in News
13 comments on “Dragnet Nation: Available Now
  1. Burt Galloway says:

    My girlfriend heard you on “Fresh Air” this afternoon and texted me ‘your parallel universe twin’ is on NPR – turn it on now! Great Show!! I’m going straight to the library with my son’s, girlfriend’s library card to check your book out; My girlfriend is hip enough to say: “she uses DuckDuckGo too” – little did she know I was going through my Tor Browser Bundle to recheck my defaults when she texted (sp?)PS: this is not my real name, or email address, either! :)

  2. David Brown says:

    Hello Julia, just heard the Fresh Air interview. Scary but well done. I just posted a rather lengthy response to your Privacy Tools on Pro Publica.

    I have been working on a set of tools for about 10 years but IMHO we will have to have legislation to back up the tool creation and usage.

    Kudos and I will read your book as soon as the ecomony lets me.

  3. Russ says:

    StartPage.com is also a good way to search without being tracked. It uses the Google search but all of the identifying info is removed and they don’t keep any information themselves. I plan to get your book. Thanks.

    • Bob Hanson says:

      I’ve used StartPage for a year or two but I always wonder if they’re as safe as they claim. How do you verify that they’re not saving every search you make? For all we know, they could be an NSA website set up specifically to lure in people who have something to hide and are afraid to use Google or Bing.

  4. Russ says:

    By the way, you might also look at the issue of smart meters and smart appliances, which can be used to spy on people in their homes. StopSmartMeters.org is a pretty good site on the subject.

  5. Kevin Mellott says:

    Excellent program on “Fresh Air”. Although I had work to do, I found myself sitting in the chair next to the radio in my shop listening. I changed my internet search engine to “duckduckgo” and changed the settings on my computers. I am ordering the book today.


    Kevin Mellott

  6. lee harris says:

    The website says Dragnet Nation is available from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Isn’t it available at local, independent bookstores? I want to buy the book, but in doing so also want to support the local bookstores, which are a treasure to the communities in which they exist, rather than the internet companies or big box chains which threaten the existence of local independent stores!

    Thank you.

  7. Howard Johnson says:

    I want to thank you, and offer you two thoughts in the form of a short Q&A test:

    Question 1) Are we fools? ‘Our’ government knows perfectly well how important privacy is. However they use different words for it when it applies to themselves. They use the words ‘confidentiality’ and ‘secrecy’, as in, ‘State Secrets’ and ‘Top Secret’, in reference to protecting ‘our’ country from others. (I once had a confidential clearance at an aerospace company building smart bombs for example.) This is to say they want privacy for themselves (the government), but not for us (we the people).

    They use two different words to fool us into thinking that their privacy is different than ours! It’s not so deliberate, but it is so.

    Privacy is privacy, no matter what you call it. We all need it, both governments and people. So for many years the U.S. government, I no longer call it ‘our’ government, has been making more documents confidential and secret, at what now appears to be an exponentially increasing rate.

    But our electronic medical and emotional conversations between friends and lovers just don’t count to them as that important.

    Why? Why this bifurcation of of a common value of privacy?

    Question 2) Does information = power? And is privacy is a way to guard against an unwanted transfer of power? Is the invasion of privacy actually the ABUSE of power? And therefore, is the erosion of personal privacy and the explosion of government privacy abuse headed our way writ large?

    That’s what I think.

    Thank you for your work.

    If you have questions email me, but please make sure you have your smime public key attached so I can respond securely. If for some reason you don’t know what I’m talking about by smime, then please write and ask, and I’ll help you get up on it.

    Heard you on Democracy Now. Want to be part of your gang.

    Quiz answers:
    a) A government is a gang, ‘a type of gang’, really. (First suggested to me by Jesse Ventura when he suggested we need to get the gang symbols off of voting ballots, referring to political parties in this case). From my experience as a long time political activist, I think internally governments at all levels behave just like any street, or organized gang at an operational level. BUT, they want us to believe they are a gang for good. It’s the old slight of hand thing because the evidence suggest something much darker.

    b) Yes. Yes. Yes. Sadly, yes.

    I think the truth is all animals (humans included) are now at peril of global extinction because we are too stupid to see through the big lies, of growth, prosperity, power, environmental entanglement, and human intelligence. Yes, we think we are smart, but this is not really born out by the fact of what humans are doing to our home planet.

    So what is the answer to this? A lot more humility I think. Also a global addiction treatment program for we are behaving as addicts: Massive denial. Clever lies to cover our habit. Ever increasing habit. Destructive consequences from habit. Either get into treatment or die.


    Treatment’s not so bad now that I’m in it. But it’s work to stick with it. The relapses are hell.

  8. Any chance we will find this on Audible soon?

  9. I just read Dragnet Nation. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    I did have a few notes to pass along to you. I hope that they are useful.

    – Using HTTPS over WiFi doesn’t make it safe. This still allows a man-in-the-middle attack, whereby someone acts as a “relay” between you and the web site. They can see everything you send since your encrypted session actually ends on their relay, not the website. To be safe, use a VPN.

    – VPN’s: IPSEC-based VPN’s are a pain to set up and often don’t work behind firewalls. SSL-based VPN’s are easier and do work behind firewalls. On my phone and laptop I use Private Tunnel. Their goal is to make your link secure but they don’t worry about making it anonymous (there is only one hop, but this is enough to fool any trackers). It doesn’t slow me down much. I don’t do a lot of mobile Internet work, so I like their usage-based pricing model. I signed up for 50G of use for $12. There is no expiration date. At my rate, this will easily last me a year. Summary: Easy, fast, secure, semi-anonymous, cheap.

    – Never log into a WiFi which is “open” (no password). Your phone will remember that you did (unless you clear it manually – if you remember!) and later a bad guy can see your phone looking for this network. He can then imitate it and get you to log in. He can’t do this if the original connection was WPA2. Given this, you are safe to leave your WiFi enabled making it painless to use the secure sites you have set up.

    – The public Tor system isn’t as safe as you might think for two reasons. Whoever operates the exit node which your traffic happens to flow through can see everything. Also, anyone monitoring the site which you go to can still see your data just as if you went to the site directly.

    – Want to carry your cell phone while not allowing it to be tracked? Turning it off doesn’t achieve this, as you noted. But if you take out the battery, then turn the phone on to run down any stored charge, the phone will be dead.

    – Your description of “salt” on page 107 is incorrect. Salting isn’t done to make the password longer. It is done so that a rainbow table attack can’t be used to crack the passwords.

    – Another way of securing your email, using end-to-end encryption, is to use S/MIME. I like it better than PGP for two reasons. It is already built into most email clients by the vendors, including Microsoft and Apple. In Outlook it is very well integrated, for example. Also, getting a X.509 security cert (all you need for S/MIME) is easier than trying to securely exchange key files with lots of people. Indeed, I use S/MIME and I have my Outlook set to automatically sign all of my outgoing mail. You will probably see the signature as an attachment. So you can already easily verify that the message came from me, and that it wasn’t changed by anyone else. Should you reply with a S/MIME signed message, then we are also about to encrypt messages to each other.

    – “HTTPS Everywhere” is a very nice add-on for your browser. If I type in “yahoo.com”, http://www.yahoo.com, or even http://www.yahoo.com, it will first see if the HTTPS version of the site is available. If so, it will use it instead of the non-secure version.

    – Not all HTTPS sites are equally secure. The Firefox add-on “SSleuth” will show you how secure the site is, and why (if you click on its icon). It’s relatively new. I like it so much that I beta test for the author.

    Thanks again for the great book!


    • Anonymous says:

      You’re wrong about one point:
      HTTPS is not susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, unless the attacker has somehow obtained the private SSL key for the server, in which case, the server has been compromised and your data is unsecure no matter which method you’re using to connect.

      If it were possible for a party to “relay” HTTPS traffic, then there would be no point in using HTTPS in the first place.

      • It is my understanding that using RSA or DH for the key exchange can be comprimised by a man-in-the-middle attack. Using DHE, however, prevents this problem. Unfortunately many websites don’t use DHE.

        Yes, if the browser throughly checks the security cert, this will detect a man-in-the-middle, assuming they aren’t using a stolen “valid” cert for the website. But how many browsers do the necessary checks?

  10. anonymous says:

    A special mention regarding use of privacy measures. it doesnt matter how good the tools at your disposal are. You have to maximize their usability by learning their strengths and weaknesses throroughly,and remember physical security is important as well. NOT just digital security. that means check you locks, examine your surroundings,look particularly for items that have been slightly shifted from where you placed them. and follow your gut feeling. If you have a hunch you’ve been compriomized then its a fair bet you have expecially if you are very meticulous about your securety, also listencarefully for odd remarks that suggest someone “knows more than they should”, icoincidentalremark aobut anevent that you attended but the other party presumably knew nothing of is an indicator that you are probably being actively watched.

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