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Review: Choking on Digital Exhaust

  • Martin Langfield
  • Reuters Breakingviews
  • April 2, 2015

Mass surveillance by governments and corporations is comparable to child labor or environmental pollution. That is the largely persuasive claim of security expert Bruce Schneier in his new book “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.” Resistance is not futile, Schneier thinks, although it will be tricky to fight overreaching securocrats and snooping online advertisers without giving up at least some of the genuine advantages of Big Data.

Much of the problem lies in excessive expectations about what mass surveillance can achieve, writes Schneier, who is chief technology officer at security firm Resilient Systems and a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. It might seem that the combination of huge amounts of collected data and sophisticated data-mining could have prevented the 9/11 attacks or the Boston Marathon bombing. But Schneier says this approach is both very expensive and downright ineffective…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.