Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Information is power - how to control the power over you., 17 Feb. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (Hardcover)
Subtitled, the death of privacy in the 21st century, Simson Garfinkel charts a topical course through computerised personal information. Consider what might happen if you were to be able to link computer-held information about yourself. Scared? Think of everything held by distinct parties. Now join it all together. Everything from your electoral information, your tax records, your credit card bill, your mobile telephone calls, your web browser's history file, your supermarket loyalty card, your car's satnav. Now factor in face recognition from CCTV, cookies left behind from web sites, the boxes you tick when you sign an application form ...
Now think that all this could be drawn together. Now automate it so that a computer, not a person, makes decision on your life based on these related clues. Scary, huh?

And boy does he cover some ground - from medical records, web logs, satelite imagery, encryption products, mail redirection - we get the full gamut. His central tenet is clear - just what does personal information mean? What rights to you have over information about yourself? Your name, your date of birth, your income, your shoe size, your magazine subscriptions, your web life. All disparate facts, but when combined, a powerful profile and useful to many people. From an insurer worrying about you as a policy, to a prospective employer who's interested in seeing what you've said on the net, to the local council who noticed you've built a new outhouse on your land ... the truth is out there, but can you connect it up?

The body is yours, but what's right do you have to your identity? You can fight back - pay in cash, wear dark glasses, don't get ill, don't travel outside your country's borders, browser through an anonymiser - but the tide needs to be stemmed and only, apparently, the governments can do it ... but do they have the inclination?

A truly scary read and a wake-up call that information is, now more than ever, power. And if you've either it got it, or you ain't, just how to you decide who gets information about you?
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