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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Review: Permanent Record

Permanent Record is Edward Snowden's account of his career with the CIA and NSA as an independent contractor/employee and how he came to become a whisteblower of mass surveillance. Maybe for someone who hasn't been in Silicon Valley for a while the story about mass surveillance might be a new one, but I think anyone who hasn't lived under a rock over the past decade or so has realized that the private sector is probably the biggest offender of privacy, and that the public in general, is pretty OK with the so-called invasion of privacy.

The deeper story for me, of course, is how much the IT outsourcing of the CIA and NSA to the private sector has probably meant that those organizations have lost control of the critical infrastructure surrounding their work.

In any case, I'm a firm advocate of the Transparent Society view of privacy. I don't think anyone should have any privacy, least of all the rich and powerful.  I think that for all intents and purposes we have already lost privacy, and the right thing to do is to point the same technologies towards the politically/materialistically powerful and hold them accountable for the world we're in.

Did I enjoy the book? It was good reading, but I found Snowden's pontificating tiresome --- at no point did he point out how the alphabet-soup government agencies did anything particularly egregious, compared to what Alphabet/Facebook companies have done. Certainly if my children did what he did, my reaction would be: "What? For what gain? Who have you benefited?"

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