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Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (Hors Coll Us) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Januar 2000

4.2 von 5 Sternen 13 Kundenrezensionen

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Forget the common cold for a moment. Instead, consider the rise of "false data syndrome," a deceptive method of identification derived from numbers rather than more recognizable human traits. Simson Garfinkel couples this idea with concepts like "data shadow" and "datasphere" in Database Nation, offering a decidedly unappealing scenario of how we have overlooked privacy with the advent of advanced technology.

According to Garfinkel, "technology is not privacy neutral." It leaves us with only two choices: 1) allow our personal data to rest in the public domain or 2) become hermits (no credit cards, no midnight video jaunts--you get the point).

Garfinkel's thoroughly researched and example-rich text explores the history of identification procedures; the computerization of ID systems; how and where data is collected, tracked, and stored; and the laws that protect privacy. He also explains who owns, manipulates, ensures the safety of, and manages the vast amount of data that makes up our collective human infrastructure. The big surprise here? It's not the United States government who controls or manages the majority of this data but rather faceless corporations who trade your purchasing habits, social security numbers, and other personal information just like any other hot commodity.

There's a heck of a lot of data to digest about data here and only a smidgen of humor to counterbalance the weight of Garfinkel's projections. But then again, humor isn't really appropriate in connection with stolen identities; medical, bank, and insurance record exploitation; or the potential for a future that's a "video surveillance free-for-all."

In many information-horrific situations, Garfinkel explores the wide variety of data thievery and the future implications of larger, longer-lasting databases. "Citizens," Garfinkel theorizes, "don't know how to fight back even though we know our privacy is at risk." In a case study involving an insurance claim form, he explains how a short paragraph can grant "blanket authorization" to all personal (not just medical) records to an insurance company. Citizens who refuse to sign the consent paragraph typically must forfeit any reimbursement for medical services. Ultimately, "we do not have the choice [as consumers] either to negotiate or to strike our own deal."

The choice that we do have, however, is to build a world in which sensitive data is respected and kept private--and the book offers clever, "turn-the-tables" solutions, suggesting that citizens, government, and corporations cooperate to develop weaker ID systems and legislate heavier penalties for identification theft.

Garfinkel's argument does give one pause, but his paranoia-laden prose and Orwellian imagination tends to obscure the effectiveness of his argument. Strangely, for all his talk about protecting your privacy, he never mentions how to remove your personal information from direct mail and telemarketing groups. And while he would like for Database Nation to be as highly regarded (and timely) as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the fact remains that we're not going to perish from having our privacy violated. --E. Brooke Gilbert


As the 21st century dawns, advances in technology endanger our privacy in ways never before imagined. Direct marketers and retailers track our every purchase; surveillance cameras observe our movements; mobile phones will soon report our location to those who want to track us; government eavesdroppers listen in on private communications; misused medical records turn our bodies and our histories against us; and linked databases assemble detailed consumer profiles used to predict and influence our behavior. Privacy - the most basic of our civil rights - is in grave peril. Simson Garfinkel - journalist, entrepreneur, and international authority on computer security - has spent his career testing new technologies and warning about their implications. "Database Nation" is his account of how invasive technologies will affect our lives in the coming years. It's a timely, far-reaching, entertaining, and thought-provoking look at the serious threats to privacy facing us today. The book poses a disturbing question: how can we protect our basic rights to privacy, identity, and autonomy when technology is making invasion and control easier than ever before?

Garfinkel's captivating blend of journalism, storytelling, and futurism is a call to arms. It will frighten, entertain, and ultimately convince us that we must take action now to protect our privacy and identity before it's too late.

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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Simson Garfinkel has written Database Nation to present a comprehensive assessment of the direction technological advances are taking that have already threatened the privacy of American citizens. Threats to our privacy hit home - they threaten our liberties to voice opposing views, to mount peaceful protests, to buy and sell, to move about freely without big brother watching us, and to live our lives as we please without undue snooping by others.
The book serves as an indictment of the Federal Government, law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, private companies, and others who have gained too much control over the lives of people. Garfinkel provides a historical perspective of technological developments and demonstrates how easily we have gone down the road of information gathering. Readers will learn that their privacy is lost when information about them is being collected and sometimes sold, stolen, and put to use by others for a variety of purposes.
The contents of this book is chilling. Are threats of crime and terrorism justification for power grabs and the surrendering of our civil liberties? Garfinkel provides case studies to demonstrate the impact technology has had upon our personal freedoms. He provides revelations about various uses and abuses of barcoding, fingerprinting, audio and video surveillance systems, Webcamming, wiretapping, credit reporting, medical record management, confidentiality, and more.
Readers will learn how the lives of average American citizens can be turned upside down when errors creep into IRS tax records and credit bureau reports. People are human and humans make errors unintentionally, they steal information, and they deliberately tamper with information for a variety of criminal reasons.
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
"Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century" does not live up to either its promise or potential. I was gravely disappointed.
There is no need to revisit at length the issues raised in an earlier review, which point out that there are no methods presented for individuals to check or correct erroneous information in their various errant files. It's as though the author is yelling "fire" and then not telling us how to get out of the building, forcing readers to find their way out through the smoke. And there is a lot of smoke indeed.
Though making many good and instructive points the author often contradicts himself. For example, the government goes through a mutually exclusive, full-cycle, role metamorphosis. In the beginning legislators could have protected us, but fell short through dropped or ignored legislation. For much of the remainder of the text the government is identified as the greatest threat to personal privacy. By the end, the author is back to a benign government that can protect and look out for what is best for us after all. Which is it?
The author, to lay some blame, claims that technology is not neutral, anthropomorphizing it with the apparent ability initiate evil, privacy threatening deeds. This is patent nonsense. Technology's use is certainly not neutral, but by itself it is beached, waiting for the next tide to either wash it further up on the sand or out to sea. His example of an inadequately designed high-tech phone system (pg. 258-260) appears to blame the phone system itself because it has the potential to be misused. Who buys that? Raise your hand.
The use of statistics throughout is both unscientific and unprofessional.
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Why every American? Because, as Garfinkel points, out Europeans are better protected than we are. In every way, on virtually every page of the book, Garfinkel shows not only how our private information is being used without our knowledge, consent, or ability to correct it, but how it is being associated. In fact, I would argue that his collection of details of how the smallest pieces of your personal, financial, medical, and employment history can be connected easily by businesses to deny you credit, a job, or insurance makes the strongest case for regulation.
The kind of regulation Garfinkel argues is necessary - and which mirrors existing laws in the EU that American companies flaunt over the Web in their dealings with EU citizens - would provide the right kinds of control and redress for citizens without requiring government involvement and ownership of data.
(One of the odd recurring points in the book is that Garfinkel views it as a missed opportunity that a monolithic data center wasn't built in the 60s to collate all individual information. I see his point, but imagine if Nixon had that resource at his disposal? Even without it, he had people's tax returns pulled. I may, perhaps, misunderstand Garfinkel's message there, as he felt a central storage point would have provided a nationwide opt-out control for individuals and the use of their data by any company.)
It's fascinating reading and a relatively quick read for a nonfiction title. As I read it, I had prickles at the back of my neck as I discovered how my own information is being used without my knowledge. (Ever heard of the MIB? Not Men In Black - read the's almost as insidious.)
Database Nation paints a picture of the dangers of leaving our lives in data in the hands of business instead of our own hands. Hopefully, technology and policy will meet politics for a solution described in his book providing the kind of ownership and rights we need.
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