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

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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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