A solid work for both privacy freaks and anyone seeking tips on such matters as how to strengthen passwords (make them...

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DRAGNET NATION

A QUEST FOR PRIVACY, SECURITY, AND FREEDOM IN A WORLD OF RELENTLESS SURVEILLANCE

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. Such data sweeps, including increased police surveillance, gathering of information by private companies, and federal interceptions of phone calls and Internet traffic, constitute “a new type of surveillance: suspicionless, computerized, impersonal, and vast in scope.” Alarmed that personal data can and will be abused, Angwin conducted a yearlong experimental effort to make tracking her own information harder. With growing paranoia, she sought to evade tracking of her phone calls, online shopping, social media connections and other activities that might lead to impersonation, financial manipulation and other abuses. She used alternate identities and disposable cellphones; eschewed the search engine Google (which stores data) for DuckDuckGo (which does not); abandoned Gmail for Riseup, a privacy-protecting email service; unfriended 600 Facebook friends; and approached the nation’s 200 data brokers to try to gain control of her data. She encrypted many personal messages and made restaurant reservations using a credit card in the name of muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell. The entire exercise was exhausting, fascinating, obsessive and only partly successful: Angwin avoided most online tracking, concealed her true identity in making sensitive purchases and convinced some friends to share encrypted messages. Realizing that she doesn’t want to live in the world she has built of “subterfuge and disinformation and covert actions,” she calls for new laws to make data handlers accountable.

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).

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9807-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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