Five books and films to understand data protection
Are you interested about personal data protection on the Internet? So many news about tech companies and legal conflict overwhelm you?
In this case, I come here to recommend a brief list of books and films that you should include in your personal list about what has happened with your information in this hyperconnected society we live in.
From autobiographies to Netflix documentaries, the selection is varied. Maybe you might find these suggestions useful. You can use them as a starting point to a more analytical and objective point of view about online privacy.
Without further delay, I’ll start my recommendations. Go fetch the popcorn!
Titles on data protection
The Great Hack
It’s very probable that you have heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Since the complaint in The Guardian in 2015, there was a lot of talk in the media about that firm of political consultancy. Why? Well, it obtained and collected data from Facebook accounts through third-party apps.
Despite fears about individual privacy, this disclosure raised awareness of the effect that data management abuse has on democratic processes. Information from millions of US users was processed for the design of Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign, Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the US Presidency, and Brexit.
In the film, some important voices round up the story: Brittanny Kaiser, ex executive of Cambridge Analytica; Carole Cadwalladr, British research journalist and the professor David Carroll, who started the legal battle to reclaim his data when the heat of the scandal was just starting to rise
The visualization of this documentary of 113 minutes is highly recommended and available on Netflix. It does not only offer the testimonies of implicated parts but also has other executives among them Christopher Wylie. It also provides a personal vision of those who follow the protagonists in those challenges that they undoubtedly face after revealing the truth.
Laura Poitras was one of the two journalists hired through encrypted communication by the mysterious user “citizenfour”. In the beginning, not even they knew who the mysterious accuser was. This person was risking everything just to make classified information about de massive surveillance programs of the National Security Agency of the United States (NSA) public.
Today we all know who Edward Snowden is. Everyone knows how and why he declassified archives that prove the reach of the massive surveillance on citizens. Programs that were all sponsored by the intelligence in that country.
This documentary follows Snowden since he meets up with Poitras and another two journalists (Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill) in a room at the Hong Kong Hotel. The situations before and after the world knew what they were doing are intertwined with a few inevitable technical concepts.
“Adapting the cold language of data encryption to recount a dramatic saga of abuse of power and justified paranoia, Poitras brilliantly demonstrates that information is a weapon that cuts both ways”Ronnie Scheib in his review for Variety magazine
Books for your “Data Protection” collection
As you probably saw coming, Edward Snowden’s autobiography starts way before the events that made him famous. His childhood, his attachment to the networks and computers, the portrait of his family and his country…these are all factors that help us understand the young boy that would later make one of the riskiest personal choices one could make in the modern world.
The following two quotes may help you understand this book not only as a chronological story of his life but his vision of concepts like democracy, human rights and resilience.
“Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say”.Edward Snowden, Permanent Record
“The unexpected blessing of trauma (is) the opportunity of reinvention…”.Edward Snowden, Permanent Record
Even though it would seem that Snowden scares us constantly with phrases like: If you’re reading this book, THEY know” (it doesn’t matter if you bought it in hard copy or if you downloaded it illegally), this is a very recommended read.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
This book is the most recent proposal of our list on data protection books and films. Shoshana Zuboff is an academic and researcher , emeritus professor at Harvard Business School. Here she presents an exhaustive investigation about how giants like google or Amazon have grown thanks to their leading role implementing a new business model: surveillance capitalism.
For this research, she goes back to the origins of these companies. At first, Google was recollecting sub products of the searches of the users in the cache (localization, click patterns…). Later they would use this info as their exchange currency to monetize their “free” services with personalized ads.
“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data”.Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
In an interview for this blog, the European Commission advisor, Paul Nemitz recommended this read. If you haven’t read the interview yet, it’s here.
Like a snake that bites its own tail, the best way to finish something is going back to its roots. That’s why I’m proposing to go back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This has been one of the greatest revelations in the last few years. Its greatest achievement was to shake the world into awareness of the power of large technology companies
The testimony, softened by her own personal situation that led her to work for Alexander Nix, unveils three intense years where she would see, maybe even without realizing, constant exchanges of power masked by public relations, numbers and glamour. An epiphany, she says, made her understand what was happening around her. And so all this understanding finished up in a book that some consider as sort of penitence.
These are my recommendations, 5 tittles that are important and different to understand the implications of massive processing of personal data on the Internet. I hope you were able to enjoy them and come back to talk about these topics some more.