This is an important book and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. For those of concerned about privacy, it's a useful read.
The book is structured like a memoir. The author was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Refreshingly, she's a married mom with two kids. I say this because, normally the people writing about government surveillance and privacy issues are single, white men. She begins the book with a brief review of privacy and government violation of it from the beginning of the republic to now. The rest of the book is taken up with her mission to retake as much of her privacy as possible and leave the smallest possible digital footprint.
She finds that it is no easy task retaking your personal information from the data brokers. We are constantly tracked while online. "Anonymous" profiles of people are assembled by these data brokers based on what websites people visit. Based on the information they collect, they'll present you with ads based on your presumed interests. More detailed profiles of people are assembled and used to determine what prices you see for say insurance or plane tickets.
This book was a real eye-opener for me. I took for granted that my moves online were tracked, but I had no idea to the degree which it is done. Most troubling is this data industry is completely unregulated. Once they have your data, you cannot compel them to reveal what they know or to delete their data on you. The only exception to this is your credit score.
I dog-eared and underlined quite a few sections in this book because she has practical tips for minimizing your exposure. I hope that if this book goes to a paperback edition, she'll assemble some of the more useful tips into a single section at the end of the book.
I think the author's conclusion to her book is a bit Pollyannaish. She argues that pollution used to be much worse in the US (an example she sites are rivers bursting into flames, and that for the most part rivers are much cleaner). Pollution is a non-specific problem like the privacy problem, but people got together and encouraged Congress to pass laws that prevent the dumping of chemicals in our rivers. I disagree. I think people have gotten too inured to having little privacy. I see things getting much worse and staying that way. People voluntarily join facebook and are happy to share nearly everything about their lives (I'm looking at you people that post pictures of your food).
My one complaint about this book is her brief reference to bookstores. "Similarly, I used to go to my local bookstore and buy books in cash. Now, all the bookstores are dying, and Amazon is my local bookstore." If you order on Amazon because of the convenience or the prices, fine, it's understandable. But don't pretend like you would still go to your local bookstore if it hadn't closed. You stopped going because of the uber convenience of Amazon. Furthermore, this author lives in New York City, and there are no independent bookstores left in New York City, really?
But aside from my tirade on this minor thing, the book is excellent and I would recommend it to those concerned about their privacy.
I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from the publisher. So take that for what you will.