David Brin takes some of our worst notions about threats to privacy and sets them on their ears. According to Brin, there is no turning back the growth of public observation and inevitable loss of privacy--at least outside of our own homes. Too many of our transactions are already monitored: Brin asserts that cameras used to observe and reduce crime in public areas have been successful and are on the rise. There's even talk of bringing in microphones to augment the cameras. Brin has no doubt that it's only a matter of time before they're installed in numbers to cover every urban area in every developed nation.
While this has the makings for an Orwellian nightmare, Brin argues that we can choose to make the same scenario a setting for even greater freedom. The determining factor is whether the power of observation and surveillance is held only by the police and the powerful or is shared by us all. In the latter case, Brin argues that people will have nothing to fear from the watchers because everyone will be watching each other. The cameras would become a public resource to assure that no mugger is hiding around the corner, our children are playing safely in the park, and police will not abuse their power.
No simplistic Utopian, Brin also acknowledges the many dangers on the way. He discusses how open access to information can either threaten or enhance freedom. It is one thing, for example, to make the entire outdoors public and another thing to allow the cameras and microphones to snoop into our homes. He therefore spends a lot of pages examining what steps are required to assure that a transparent society evolves in a manner that enhances rather than restricts freedom. This is a challenging view of tomorrow and an exhilarating read for those who don't mind challenges to even the most well-entrenched cultural assumptions. --Elizabeth Lewis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Science fiction writer Brin (The Uplift War) departs from technological fantasy to focus on the social and political ramifications of our information age. While addressing the technology-vs.-privacy debate, he offers an informed overview of the issues and a useful historical account of how current policies evolved. Also beneficial are his descriptions of the different viewpoints on encryption software, online anonymity, the Clipper Chip and techno-jargon. But when Brin opines on these topics, the book suffers from superficiality. He appends remarks to the end of each chapter as this: "When you've been invited to a really neat party, try to dance with the one who brought you." His main point--that information and criticism should flow unrestricted--is lost in a melange of armchair social science theory and unrelated observations on the media, morality, identity and manners. After making a thoughtful case for discouraging encryption and encouraging free speech on the Web, he undercuts his position by calling for e-mail civility, "because people who lash out soon learn that it simply does not pay," then states that a balance can be achieved between these two extremes. Despite a strong beginning, Brin's book ultimately lacks clarity and originality.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is a must read for anyone period. Privacy or lack of it should matter to everyone.
Who watches the watchers? Read more
There's a kind of reflex reaction among many people to try to protect and preserve privacy. Brin digs into this from a variety of viewpoints and develops arguments which are even... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Quintus Horatius Flaccus
Some of the best science fiction I have ever read was penned by Dr. Brin. He knows how to write ... fiction. He also must beat least a passable academic to get a doctorate. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
Transparency vs a false sense of privacy. A compelling case for watching the watchers and not letting privacy be a concern. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Anthony J Guarino
I'm half way thorugh this book and am finding it refreshing.
The premise: ubiquitously available information makes for accountability - accountability minimizes bad acts. Read more
I have not seen this issue tackled in a comprehensive way before, especially one that actually looked at the reasons behind our rhetoric and why do we care about privacy, and why... Read morePublished on January 3, 2013 by Nolrai
The author reports that the "central thesis of this book [is] that transparency is beneficial to all levels of society. Read morePublished on January 1, 2013 by Don Morris
David Brin walks through the future of privacy and surveillance, and where things could lead us. 13 years on, and I've not seen anything to say he was wrong. Read morePublished on June 26, 2011 by Amazon Customer
I read this book when it first came out, and attended one of the lectures David gave as part of the associated book tour. Read morePublished on June 26, 2011 by P. F. Anderson