Review: Data and Goliath

Hi everyone,

Political views aside, it is important to be aware of the fact that what we post online has a footprint. This is something I always tell my daughters and the younger generations. After reading “Data and Goliath” by Bruce Schneier, it is clear why corporate and government surveillance is on the rise—but more importantly the book is a good resource for learning how to protect your privacy online, if you so choose.

One story that this book reminded me of is from a few years back. The premise of the story being that targeted advertising from this teen girl’s online behavior figured out that she was pregnant before her dad did. Here’s an excerpt of the New York Times article:

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

If you never read about this story, this article from the New York Times is definitely worth a read, especially in the times we live in now.

Here are some memorable quotes from the book:

“If something is free, you’re not the customer; you’re the product.”

“security versus privacy” is a “false trade-off”, we need both.

The biggest take away is that the book tells you what you can do, and that is changing your routine.

  1. Pay for items with cash not plastic
  2. Be mindful of your Facebook, and remember that content isn’t deleted even when you press delete
  3. Don’t back up your data to the cloud
  4. If you don’t want your online searches tracked, use DuckDuckGo
  5. Encrypt your hard drive
  6. Add a plug-in to encrypt your mail or sign up for an email account at Proton Mail

Categories: Data and Goliath, Text

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.