The Death of Privacy in the 21st CenturyeBook - 2000 | 1st ed.
As the 21st century dawns, advances in technology endanger our privacy in ways never before imagined. Direct marketers and retailers track our every purchase; surveillance cameras observe our movements; mobile phones will soon report our location to those who want to track us; government eavesdroppers listen in on private communications; misused medical records turn our bodies and our histories against us; and linked databases assemble detailed consumer profiles used to predict and influence our behavior. Privacy -- the most basic of our civil rights -- is in grave peril.Simson Garfinkel -- journalist, entrepreneur, and international authority on computer security -- has spent his career testing new technologies and warning about their implications. Database Nation is his compelling account of how invasive technologies will affect our lives in the coming years. It's a timely, far-reaching, entertaining, and thought-provoking look at the serious threats to privacy facing us today. The book poses a disturbing question: how can we protect our basic rights to privacy, identity, and autonomy when technology is making invasion and control easier than ever before?Garfinkel's captivating blend of journalism, storytelling, and futurism is a call to arms. It will frighten, entertain, and ultimately convince us that we must take action now to protect our privacy and identity before it's too late.Background: Fifty years ago, in "1984, " George Orwell imagined a future in which privacy was demolished by a totalitarian state that used spies, video surveillance, historical revisionism, and control over the media to maintain its power. Those who worry about personal privacy and identity--especially in this day of technologies that encroach upon these rights-- still use Orwell's "Big Brother" language to discuss privacy issues. But the reality is that the age of a monolithic Big Brother is over. And yet the threats are perhaps even more likely to destroy the rights we've assumed were ours.Today's threats to privacy are more widely distributed than they were in Orwell's state, and they represent both public and private interests. Over the next fifty years, we'll see new kinds of threats to privacy that don't find their roots in totalitarianism but in capitalism, the free market, advances in technology, and the unbridled exchange of electronic information.Today's Threats to PrivacyThe End of Due Process. Governments and businesses went on a computer-buying spree in the second half of the 20th century, replacing billions of paper files with electronic data-processing systems. But the new computers lacked some very important qualities of the manual systems that they replaced: flexibility, compassion, and understanding. Today, humans often are completely absent from digital decision-making. As a result, we've created a world in which the smallest clerical errors can have devastating effects on a person's life. It's a world where comput- ers are assumed to be correct, and people wrong. The Fallibility of Biometrics. Fingerprints, iris scans, and genetic sequences are widely regarded as infallible techniques for identifying human beings. They are so good, in fact, that fifty years from now identification cards and passports will probably not exist. Instead, a global data network will allow anyone on the planet to be instantly identified from the unique markings of their own body. Will it be impossible for people to conceal their identity from the federal government, and if so, is that a good thing? What about concealing your identity from the local drug store? And who controls the databank, anyway? Would they ever need to create "false" identities?The Systematic Capture of Everyday Events. We are entering a new world in which every purchase we make, every place we travel, every word we say, and everything we read is routinely recorded and made available for later analysis. But while the technology exists to capture this data, we lack the wisdom to