An inside look at who's watching you, what they know and why it matters.
The Bottom Line
Welcome to Dragnet Nation, where technological innovation has given rise to pervasive government and commercial surveillance that operates with little human intervention, sweeps up the guilty and innocent alike, and is largely unregulated.
Who’s watching you? For most of history, only high-profile individuals and spies needed to worry about being tracked, but today, we are all under constant surveillance, both by our own governments and private companies. But who exactly is collecting our data, and what information can they access? Perhaps most importantly, what can we do about it? These are the questions Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin tackles in Dragnet Nation.
The first dragnets in what was to become the United States were created by the British government shortly before the American Revolution. These open-ended search warrants allowed British officers to search properties without probable cause, and the injustice of these invasions of privacy directly contributed to the Founding Fathers’ decision to declare independence and to append privacy protections to the Constitution with the Fourth Amendment.
However, it was not until the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that modern-day data dragnets began to proliferate at an alarming — rate not only among governmental and law enforcement groups but also in the private sector. In the name of national security, the NSA and other governmental organizations began collecting personal data, including phone records, emails, internet traffic and location data from American citizens at an unprecedented rate, as disclosed by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.
II. Surveillance and the “Dark Data Cycle”
III. Threat Models
IV. Passwords and Unplugging
V. Pocket Litter and Opting Out
VI. Trackers and Encryption
VII. Balancing Between Safeguards and Surveillance
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