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The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age Hardcover – January 13, 2004

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The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age Jeffrey Rosen attempts to diagnose the cause of what he sees as deteriorating liberty in the post-9/11 era. At the same time, he sketches some pathways toward a cure: a balance of security and privacy through legislation. The book provides a provocative--if occasionally simplistic--survey of sociological and psychological research regarding crowd behavior in reaction to a fear-inducing tragedy, but it loses its way in a general exploration of public exhibitionism, from blogs to reality TV. While Rosen doesn't argue that America is an Orwellian society, he suggests that, in the aftermath of 9/11, Americans are poised to trade their privacy and liberty for an increased feeling of security. The operative word for him is "feeling": people are, as he says, "more concerned about feeling safe than being safe." The crowd chases seeming high-tech "silver bullets" when it is often cheaper, low-tech, less-showy, and less invasive forms of screening that are most effective. In fact, in his compelling case study of Britain's CCTV he shows there is little evidence that the massive program--which photographs the average Briton with 300 separate security cameras each day--has done anything to reduce crime or terrorism.

In the weakest part of the book, Rosen tries to connect his larger thesis about the need to balance privacy and security to the emergence of reality TV and the exhibitionism of blogs and other technologies. While his argument--that people in the modern era must expose their personal lives to win trust--offers some food for thought, this turns towards the entertainment industry seems misplaced in his march toward public policy. Overall, Rosen takes a melancholy view of the ability to change crowd dynamics in a media-saturated world. In his final chapter, he does hold out some hope, though. In particular, he argues for legislation emphasizing the dangers of discrimination inherent in many security screening technologies and Dataveillance. He hopes that this appeal to anti-discrimination may awaken the slumbering crowd to a looming crisis of unrestrained security technologies. While Rosen makes an interesting case in this thought-provoking book, it will probably take a more strident call for change to shift public opinion in the ways Rosen imagines. --Patrick O'Kelley

From The New Yorker

In an effort to predict where concerns about domestic security may lead us, Rosen takes the example of Britain. After two deadly I.R.A. bombings in London's financial district, the government mounted surveillance cameras on eight gates in the area. By now, the country has some four million cameras, and the average citizen is photographed by an estimated three hundred of them every day. But the cameras have yet to help capture a single terrorist. Rosen's wide-ranging and thoughtful defense of privacy rights suggests that the United States is highly susceptible to similar measures, citing an executive branch intent on stoking the public's post-9/11 anxieties and, more surprisingly, the voluntary surrender of privacy inherent in personal Web pages and reality TV shows. Despite Rosen's occasionally hectoring tone, his solution—that new security technologies be tamed with strong congressional restraints—is far too sensible to stand much chance of being implemented.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375508007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375508004
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,877,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book on privacy and the freedom we are willing to give up because of fear (sometimes overrated fear) that the media wants us to believe. The book starts off describing how England has set up CCTV cameras all around London and are using them to prevent small crimes instead of terrorism which it was set up for..
The book talks about the things that we fear... We fear things that are big in casualties but doesn't happen that often. This is like people who fear flying, but drive every day and as most of us know there are more accidents in cars than in planes. Then the book goes into the fact that we are willing to give our freedoms and privacy because we fear terrorism and we think that adding technology and country wide databases will help solve all our problems. We are letting the government turn our country into a police state and the exact same thing our founders left England and started this country to get away from. The book also talks about how we are willing to give up privacy so easily. In old times there was more structure in society we were all classified based on our status or wealth. Because of this we knew who we were dealing with, we knew who we could trust and who we could share things with. In today's society we are sharing things freely over the internet and through email to people we haven't even seen. The book also claims not to have all the answers on how we should prevent terrorism or how or what we should be willing to share, but just wants us to look at the options out there and realize that create a master database with everyone listed in the US is not the answer and has not proven to be effective in stopping terrorism. We need to make sure that if we are going to give up some of our freedom we are going to get tangible and recognizable results.
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Format: Paperback
The Naked Crowd's title comes from an example author Jeffrey Rosen uses to audiences and classes. He descibes an airport scanner that "undresses" you as you go through it, revealing not only potential weapons, but you in all your nakedness beneath your clothing. Rosen then tells his audiences that technology exists to easily obscure the face and other identifying parts of a person's body on the screen, but still be able, with complete accuracy, to see potential weapons. When given the choice of "the Naked Machine" and "the Blob Machine," there are always people who choose "the Naked Machine."

Rosen examines how, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Americans have been willing to give up their liberty, not for security, but for the illusion of security. He explores the proliferation of closed circuit TV cameras throughout Britain, which has been shown to have no effect at all on security. He discusses how the public and politicians alike are looking for a technological "silver bullet" that will solve our security problems. He mentions in passing an article in The Atlantic Monthly, about the dangers of depending on slick technology to solve our security problems. Bruce Schneier's book Beyond Fear, expands on this theme and offers practical solutions to the problem, and I highly recommend it in addition to The Naked Crowd.

Using examples from history, sociology, psychology, and the law, Rosen shows how we have come to this seemingly un-American state of affairs. The Naked Crowd is really quite readable and thought-provoking in a non-partisan way. He praises both Franklin Roosevelt and Rudolph Giuliani as effective leaders in a crisis, and doesn't mention Bush at all.
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Format: Hardcover
The premise of "The Naked Crowd" is that we have become addicted to expensive feel-good gadgetry to protect us from terrorism, but that this gadgetry neither serves the needs of those who want more security nor those who want more privacy.
Rosen finds plenty of examples to bolster his case: the face-recognition systems that can't tell men from women, and suspect databases that force customs officials to pull 5-year old children and 85-year old seniors out of line, and have turned travel into a Kafkaesque nightmare for some unfortunately named individuals.
The more interesting question that the book addresses is why we are drawn to these worthless schemes. Rosen gives the unexpected results of an airport scanner test as the provocation for writing the book. People offered a choice of going through two airport scanners, which were identical in every way - except that only one had the image of the travellers' naked bodies obfuscated from the guards' screen - often chose the "Naked Machine" in preference to the other. The reason they offered was that they were using their voluntary humiliation as proof of their trustworthiness.
Rosen suggests that this need to "expose" ourselves has been caused by our moving from small communities, where we knew everyone, to a hyperspace of constantly changing crowds of strangers. We each develop a mental thumbnail sketch of ourselves that we feel obliged to "market" via weblogs, bulletin boards - and user reviewer bio's. It forces us to concentrate on revealing ourselves, rather than trying to retain whatever privacy we could in townships where everyone knew everyone else's business.
It would have been helpful if Rosen had offered a working definition of "privacy" or an explanation of why we should "protect" it.
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