Entries Tagged "Data and Goliath"

Page 2 of 2

Data and Goliath Makes New York Times Best-Seller List

The March 22 best-seller list from the New York Times will list me as #6 in the hardcover nonfiction category, and #13 in the combined paper/e-book category. This is amazing, really. The book just barely crossed #400 on Amazon this week, but it seems that other booksellers did more.

There are new reviews from the LA Times, Lawfare, EFF, and Slashdot.

The Internet Society recorded a short video of me talking about my book. I’ve given longer talks, and videos should be up soon. “Science Friday” interviewed me about my book.

Amazon has it back in stock. And, as always, more information on the book’s website.

Posted on March 12, 2015 at 2:05 PMView Comments

Data and Goliath's Big Idea

Data and Goliath is a book about surveillance, both government and corporate. It’s an exploration in three parts: what’s happening, why it matters, and what to do about it. This is a big and important issue, and one that I’ve been working on for decades now. We’ve been on a headlong path of more and more surveillance, fueled by fear­–of terrorism mostly­–on the government side, and convenience on the corporate side. My goal was to step back and say “wait a minute; does any of this make sense?” I’m proud of the book, and hope it will contribute to the debate.

But there’s a big idea here too, and that’s the balance between group interest and self-interest. Data about us is individually private, and at the same time valuable to all us collectively. How do we decide between the two? If President Obama tells us that we have to sacrifice the privacy of our data to keep our society safe from terrorism, how do we decide if that’s a good trade-off? If Google and Facebook offer us free services in exchange for allowing them to build intimate dossiers on us, how do we know whether to take the deal?

There are a lot of these sorts of deals on offer. Waze gives us real-time traffic information, but does it by collecting the location data of everyone using the service. The medical community wants our detailed health data to perform all sorts of health studies and to get early warning of pandemics. The government wants to know all about you to better deliver social services. Google wants to know everything about you for marketing purposes, but will “pay” you with free search, free e-mail, and the like.

Here’s another one I describe in the book: “Social media researcher Reynol Junco analyzes the study habits of his students. Many textbooks are online, and the textbook websites collect an enormous amount of data about how­–and how often­–students interact with the course material. Junco augments that information with surveillance of his students’ other computer activities. This is incredibly invasive research, but its duration is limited and he is gaining new understanding about how both good and bad students study­–and has developed interventions aimed at improving how students learn. Did the group benefit of this study outweigh the individual privacy interest of the subjects who took part in it?”

Again and again, it’s the same trade-off: individual value versus group value.

I believe this is the fundamental issue of the information age, and solving it means careful thinking about the specific issues and a moral analysis of how they affect our core values.

You can see that in some of the debate today. I know hardened privacy advocates who think it should be a crime for people to withhold their medical data from the pool of information. I know people who are fine with pretty much any corporate surveillance but want to prohibit all government surveillance, and others who advocate the exact opposite.

When possible, we need to figure out how to get the best of both: how to design systems that make use of our data collectively to benefit society as a whole, while at the same time protecting people individually.

The world isn’t waiting; decisions about surveillance are being made for us­–often in secret. If we don’t figure this out for ourselves, others will decide what they want to do with us and our data. And we don’t want that. I say: “We don’t want the FBI and NSA to secretly decide what levels of government surveillance are the default on our cell phones; we want Congress to decide matters like these in an open and public debate. We don’t want the governments of China and Russia to decide what censorship capabilities are built into the Internet; we want an international standards body to make those decisions. We don’t want Facebook to decide the extent of privacy we enjoy amongst our friends; we want to decide for ourselves.”

In my last chapter, I write: “Data is the pollution problem of the information age, and protecting privacy is the environmental challenge. Almost all computers produce personal information. It stays around, festering. How we deal with it­–how we contain it and how we dispose of it­–is central to the health of our information economy. Just as we look back today at the early decades of the industrial age and wonder how our ancestors could have ignored pollution in their rush to build an industrial world, our grandchildren will look back at us during these early decades of the information age and judge us on how we addressed the challenge of data collection and misuse.”

That’s it; that’s our big challenge. Some of our data is best shared with others. Some of it can be ‘processed’­–anonymized, maybe­–before reuse. Some of it needs to be disposed of properly, either immediately or after a time. And some of it should be saved forever. Knowing what data goes where is a balancing act between group and self-interest, a trade-off that will continually change as technology changes, and one that we will be debating for decades to come.

This essay previously appeared on John Scalzi’s blog Whatever.

EDITED TO ADD (3/7): Hacker News thread.

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 2:10 PMView Comments

Data and Goliath: Reviews and Excerpts

On the net right now, there are excerpts from the Introduction on Scientific American, Chapter 5 on the Atlantic, Chapter 6 on the Blaze, Chapter 8 on Ars Technica, Chapter 15 on Slate, and Chapter 16 on Motherboard. That might seem like a lot, but it’s only 9,000 of the book’s 80,000 words: barely 10%.

There are also a few reviews: from Boing Boing, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Nature. More reviews coming.

Amazon claims to be temporarily out of stock, but that’ll only be for a day or so. There are many other places to buy the book, including Indie Bound, which serves independent booksellers.

Book website is here.

Posted on March 3, 2015 at 1:03 PMView Comments

Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not from Them

In December, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was interviewed at the CATO Institute Surveillance Conference. One of the things he said, after talking about some of the security measures his company has put in place post-Snowden, was: “If you have important information, the safest place to keep it is in Google. And I can assure you that the safest place to not keep it is anywhere else.”

The surprised me, because Google collects all of your information to show you more targeted advertising. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet, and Google is one of the most successful companies at that. To claim that Google protects your privacy better than anyone else is to profoundly misunderstand why Google stores your data for free in the first place.

I was reminded of this last week when I appeared on Glenn Beck’s show along with cryptography pioneer Whitfield Diffie. Diffie said:

You can’t have privacy without security, and I think we have glaring failures in computer security in problems that we’ve been working on for 40 years. You really should not live in fear of opening an attachment to a message. It ought to be confined; your computer ought to be able to handle it. And the fact that we have persisted for decades without solving these problems is partly because they’re very difficult, but partly because there are lots of people who want you to be secure against everyone but them. And that includes all of the major computer manufacturers who, roughly speaking, want to manage your computer for you. The trouble is, I’m not sure of any practical alternative.

That neatly explains Google. Eric Schmidt does want your data to be secure. He wants Google to be the safest place for your data ­ as long as you don’t mind the fact that Google has access to your data. Facebook wants the same thing: to protect your data from everyone except Facebook. Hardware companies are no different. Last week, we learned that Lenovo computers shipped with a piece of adware called Superfish that broke users’ security to spy on them for advertising purposes.

Governments are no different. The FBI wants people to have strong encryption, but it wants backdoor access so it can get at your data. UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants you to have good security, just as long as it’s not so strong as to keep the UK government out. And, of course, the NSA spends a lot of money ensuring that there’s no security it can’t break.

Corporations want access to your data for profit; governments want it for security purposes, be they benevolent or malevolent. But Diffie makes an even stronger point: we give lots of companies access to our data because it makes our lives easier.

I wrote about this in my latest book, Data and Goliath:

Convenience is the other reason we willingly give highly personal data to corporate interests, and put up with becoming objects of their surveillance. As I keep saying, surveillance-based services are useful and valuable. We like it when we can access our address book, calendar, photographs, documents, and everything else on any device we happen to be near. We like services like Siri and Google Now, which work best when they know tons about you. Social networking apps make it easier to hang out with our friends. Cell phone apps like Google Maps, Yelp, Weather, and Uber work better and faster when they know our location. Letting apps like Pocket or Instapaper know what we’re reading feels like a small price to pay for getting everything we want to read in one convenient place. We even like it when ads are targeted to exactly what we’re interested in. The benefits of surveillance in these and other applications are real, and significant.

Like Diffie, I’m not sure there is any practical alternative. The reason the Internet is a worldwide mass-market phenomenon is that all the technological details are hidden from view. Someone else is taking care of it. We want strong security, but we also want companies to have access to our computers, smart devices, and data. We want someone else to manage our computers and smart phones, organize our e-mail and photos, and help us move data between our various devices.

Those “someones” will necessarily be able to violate our privacy, either by deliberately peeking at our data or by having such lax security that they’re vulnerable to national intelligence agencies, cybercriminals, or both. Last week, we learned that the NSA broke into the Dutch company Gemalto and stole the encryption keys for billions ­ yes, billions ­ of cell phones worldwide. That was possible because we consumers don’t want to do the work of securely generating those keys and setting up our own security when we get our phones; we want it done automatically by the phone manufacturers. We want our data to be secure, but we want someone to be able to recover it all when we forget our password.

We’ll never solve these security problems as long as we’re our own worst enemy. That’s why I believe that any long-term security solution will not only be technological, but political as well. We need laws that will protect our privacy from those who obey the laws, and to punish those who break the laws. We need laws that require those entrusted with our data to protect our data. Yes, we need better security technologies, but we also need laws mandating the use of those technologies.

This essay previously appeared on Forbes.com.

EDITED TO ADD: French translation.

Posted on February 26, 2015 at 6:47 AMView Comments

New Book: Data and Goliath

After a year of talking about it, my new book is finally published.

This is the copy from the inside front flap:

You are under surveillance right now.

Your cell phone provider tracks your location and knows who’s with you. Your online and in-store purchasing patterns are recorded, and reveal if you’re unemployed, sick, or pregnant. Your e-mails and texts expose your intimate and casual friends. Google knows what you’re thinking because it saves your private searches. Facebook can determine your sexual orientation without you ever mentioning it.

The powers that surveil us do more than simply store this information. Corporations use surveillance to manipulate not only the news articles and advertisements we each see, but also the prices we’re offered. Governments use surveillance to discriminate, censor, chill free speech, and put people in danger worldwide. And both sides share this information with each other or, even worse, lose it to cybercriminals in huge data breaches.

Much of this is voluntary: we cooperate with corporate surveillance because it promises us convenience, and we submit to government surveillance because it promises us protection. The result is a mass surveillance society of our own making. But have we given up more than we’ve gained? In Data and Goliath, security expert Bruce Schneier offers another path, one that values both security and privacy. He shows us exactly what we can do to reform our government surveillance programs and shake up surveillance-based business models, while also providing tips for you to protect your privacy every day. You’ll never look at your phone, your computer, your credit cards, or even your car in the same way again.

And there’s a great quote on the cover:

“The public conversation about surveillance in the digital age would be a good deal more intelligent if we all read Bruce Schneier first.” –Malcolm Gladwell, author of David and Goliath

This is the table of contents:

Part 1: The World We’re Creating

Chapter 1: Data as a By-Product of Computing
Chapter 2: Data as Surveillance
Chapter 3: Analyzing our Data
Chapter 4: The Business of Surveillance
Chapter 5: Government Surveillance and Control
Chapter 6: Consolidation of Institutional Surveillance

Part 2: What’s at Stake

Chapter 7: Political Liberty and Justice
Chapter 8: Commercial Fairness and Equality
Chapter 9: Business Competitiveness
Chapter 10: Privacy
Chapter 11: Security

Part 3: What to Do About It

Chapter 12: Principles
Chapter 13: Solutions for Government
Chapter 14: Solutions for Corporations
Chapter 15: Solutions for the Rest of Us
Chapter 16: Social Norms and the Big Data Trade-off

I’ve gotten some great responses from people who read the bound galley, and hope for some good reviews in mainstream publications. So far, there’s one review.

You can buy the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Book Depository, or IndieBound — which routes your purchase through a local independent bookseller. E-books are available on Amazon, B&N, Apple’s iBooks store, and Google Play.

And if you can, please write a review for Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else.

Posted on February 15, 2015 at 6:41 AMView Comments

Data and Goliath Is Finished

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World is finished. I submitted it to my publisher, Norton, this morning. In a few weeks, I’ll get the copyedited manuscript back, and a few weeks after that, it’ll go into production. Stacks of printed books will come out the other end in February, and the book will be published on March 9. There’s already an Amazon page, but it’s still pretty preliminary. And I expect the price to go down.

Books are both a meandering and clarifying process for me, and I figure out what I’m writing about as I write about it. Data and Goliath started out being about security and power in cyberspace, and ended up being about digital surveillance and what to do about it.

This is the table of contents:

Part 1: The World We’re Creating

Chapter 1: Data as a By-Product of Computing
Chapter 2: Data as Surveillance
Chapter 3: Analyzing our Data
Chapter 4: The Business of Surveillance
Chapter 5: Government Surveillance and Control
Chapter 6: Consolidation of Institutional Surveillance

Part 2: What’s at Stake

Chapter 7: Political Liberty and Justice
Chapter 8: Commercial Fairness and Equality
Chapter 9: Business Competitiveness
Chapter 10: Privacy
Chapter 11: Security

Part 3: What to Do About It

Chapter 12: Principles
Chapter 13: Solutions for Government
Chapter 14: Solutions for Corporations
Chapter 15: Solutions for the Rest of Us
Chapter 16: Social Norms and the Big Data Trade-off

Fundamentally, the issues surrounding mass surveillance are tensions between group interest and self-interest, a topic I covered in depth in Liars and Outliers. We’re promised great benefits if we allow all of our data to be collected in one place; at the same time, it can be incredibly personal. I see this tension playing out in many areas: location data, social graphs, medical data, search histories. Figuring out the proper balances between group and self-interests, and ensuring that those balances are maintained, is the fundamental issue of the information age. It’s how we are going to be judged by our descendants fifty years from now.

Anyway, the book is done and at the publisher. I’m happy with it; the manuscript is so tight you can bounce a quarter off of it. This is a complicated topic, and I think I distilled it down into 80,000 words that are both understandable by the lay reader and interesting to the policy wonk or technical geek. It’s also an important topic, and I hope the book becomes a flash point for discussion and debate.

But that’s not for another five months. You might think that’s a long time, but in publishing that’s incredibly fast. I convinced Norton to go with this schedule by stressing that the book becomes less timely every second it’s not published. (An exaggeration, I know, but they bought it.) Now I just hope that nothing major happens between now and then to render the book obsolete.

For now, I want to get back to writing shorter pieces. Writing a book can be all-consuming, and I generally don’t have time for anything else. Look at my essays. Last year, I wrote 59 essays. This year so far: 17. That’s an effect of writing the book. Now that it’s done, expect more essays on news websites and longer posts on this blog. It’ll be good to be thinking about something else for a change.

If anyone works for a publication, and wants to write a review, conduct an interview, publish an excerpt, or otherwise help me get the word out about the book, please e-mail me and I will pass you on to Norton’s publicity department. I think this book has a real chance of breaking out of my normal security market.

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 6:36 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.