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Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies (MIT Press) Hardcover – January 28, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Landau's well-researched writing is a superb resource for the citizen who wants to be an informed participant in the civil rights debate that is succinctly summarized in the title.

(Hilarie Orman IEEE Cipher)

An extremely important book. Landau has the remarkable talent of taking very broad issues and detailing them in a concise, yet comprehensive manner…This book is the definitive text on the topic and it is a title that needs to be read.

(Ben Rothke Slashdot)

By carefully explaining the ways in which excessive surveillance can undermine security, this informative and provocative book turns on its head the traditiona -- and misleading -- assumption that national security and civil liberties must always be balanced against each other, as if they were mutually exclusive objectives on opposite sides of the scale. Landau demonstrates a rare and extremely valuable combination of both technical expertise and policy savvy, and the material is presented in way that is accessible for the general public yet specific enough to guide policymakers in Congress and the Executive branch -- for whom it should be required reading. I have been working in the national security arena for over 25 years, and following cybersecurity issues for nearly 15 years, and still found in this book fresh insights and new information that will make a valuable contribution to the important policy debates at the intersection of privacy and security.

(Suzanne E. Spaulding, Bingham McCutchen, LLP; former Assistant General Counsel, C.I.A.; former Executive Director, National Commission on Terrorism)

Governments have been trying to control the Internet since the early 1990s, when they realized that it would change everything and they didn't understand how. Much of the 1990s was spent on the Crypto Wars, as governments tried to control surveillance online. One of the veterans, Susan Landau, gives us a perspective on where the battle lines are now and where surveillance is likely to go in the future.

(Ross J. Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering, University of Cambridge)

Susan Landau has taken an exceptionally complex but vital subject and presented it in a clear and compelling way. The ability of a citizen to securely communicate with her peers lies at the heart of the rule of law. Landau demonstrates the necessity of protecting that right amidst the technological changes that can greatly alter the balance of power between citizens and governments.

(Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University; author, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It)

About the Author

Susan Landau is the coauthor (with Whitfield Diffie) of Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (MIT Press, updated and expanded edition, 2007, 2010).

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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (January 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262015307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015301
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,017,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an absolutely mandatory source book for everyone interested in the would-be conflicts represented between and within each side of the "or" in the title. It is truly remarkable, incisive, important, timely, superbly researched, and copiously footnoted for those who want to dig even deeper. At the moment, we seem to have surveillance without security, and without sufficient controls. However, the challenges of achieving adequate security *and* legitimate surveillance *and* meaningful privacy (however you might wish to define them) may be eternally unreachable -- especially in the absence of meaningful security and trustworthiness more generally.
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Format: Hardcover
Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies is a hard book to categorize. It is not about security, but it deals extensively with it. It is not a law book, but legal topics are pervasive throughout the book. It is not a telecommunications book, but extensively details telco issues. Ultimately, the book is a most important overview of security and privacy and the nature of surveillance in current times.

Surveillance or Security? is one of the most pragmatic books on the topic is that the author never once uses the term Big Brother. Far too many books on privacy and surveillance are filled with hysteria and hyperbole and the threat of an Orwellian society. This book sticks to the raw facts and details the current state, that of insecure and porous networks around a surveillance society.

In this densely packed work, Susan Landau, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University details the myriad layers around surveillance, national security, information security and privacy. Landau writes that her concern is not about legally authorized law enforcement and nationally security wiretapping; rather about the security risks of building surveillance into communications infrastructures.

Landau details numerous reasons why communications security is hard to do right; but an imperative for our ultimate security, privacy and digital wellbeing.

In 250 pages, Landau makes a compelling case. In addition to her superb handle on the topic, the book has over 80 pages of footnotes, where every quote, statement and claim is verified and confirmed. The book is a great launching pad for a much deeper analysis on the topic.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book to do a little background reading to prep for a short story I am writing. Well, I hope knowing the facts of the current surveillance snafu won't destroy my conception for a story, but if it does, so what. SURVEILLANCE OR SECURITY is a must-read, regardless of one's politics. It is, if nothing else, a warning against hubris, which does seem to filter when we overstep, thinking that our powers can solve that which we fear.

The book is clearly organized, and the writing style suits me, a non-techie, perfectly. Explanations are clear and evidence is abundant.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the world of computer security and surveillance, it's almost axiomatic that any book accepted for publication will be dated by the time it appears in print (or electronically). Certainly, anything that antedates Snowden's stunning revelations of NSA surveillance can be considered ante diluvian. So, accepting that premise, if you do, why bother with Susan Landau's book on the topic? Basically, her work is worthy of consideration for her concise historical synopsis (beginning more or less in recent/modern computer era) and her legal perspectives on the pre-Snowden era.

Landau begins with a survey of internet architecture (a couple of chapters she advises that some readers may wish to skip). She progresses to a pithy synopsis of the legal aspects of wiretapping and notes that postal privacy extends to a 1792 act which was re-affirmed in an 1878 US Supreme Court decision, this specifying the need for a warrant to open first class mail. She notes that government wiretapping began with the advent of the telegraph and ramped up during Prohibition (the Roy Olmsted case being an intriguing example of court dealings with the matter). Setting somewhat of a precedent for future rulings, the Court found in favor of the government in that case, but the sanctity of electronic communications was ardently defended in a lone dissenting opinion rendered by the distinguished jurist, Louis Brandeis. In a rare act of virtue, in 1934 Congress passed legislation which prohibited "unauthorized" interception of wired communications as a follow-up to the Radio Act of 1927. The entire precarious edifice (what constitutes, "unauthorized"?) was unwittingly crumbled by FDR during WW-II in response to a "national security" plea to wiretap "spies" by the Surveillance King, J.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this is tough reading but Landau cuts through a lot of myths about computer privacy and the extent of privacy invasion but her view of the future is no less perilous than that portrayed on the evening news. She has a clear headed view of the 21st Century World but makes a compelling case that those in charge of our security are fighting a battle that no longer exists, in essence, fighting the last war, not this one. And the dangers posed by these strategies are very real. If you can wade through this, this is a good book to have.
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