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Topical, but excessive in some ways and lacking in others.
on November 16, 2013
The topic of this book is very timely. That's a big plus. I don't know that there is another book better right now on this subject. I wish there were.
This is a long-form work of journalism that's reads like a cross between People magazine and Wired. Based on a lot of original interviews and drawing also from information that's already public, Andy Greenberg sensationalizes a set of prime mover type people in the history of leaking. The book is heavy on biographic details -- too much so, in my opinion. The quantity of biographic details is all out of proportion, too many pages, and too often tangled in ho-hum squabbles and politics among prominent hackers and leakers.
Greenberg's book also describes a lot of the technological tension and innovation that enables hackers to pierce the secrets of governments and businesses, often while they maintain secretive control over their own operations. The technogical description is too much information, though, for a general reader like me.
What's missing is a view from society. Are the hackers and leakers achieving social value on balance? Are they doing more than entertaining themselves? How about the risks they pose to people's lives, state-level diplomacy, and commercial private property? What about considerations of ethics, the rule of law, and holding people accountable for spreading private information? Such questions mostly get sidestepped in this book without acknowledgment. To me, it's half a book, but all the page count.