Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz
Last month I read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, a book I would highly recommend. Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz is another one on the same topic, surveillance capitalism, and it’s even better for a couple of reasons: it’s three times shorter and the style is colloquial, as opposed to the academic language used by Zuboff. I loved this book because it offers information so clear and in such a way that is accessible to almost everyone.
In the beginning, Véliz describes the day of a regular person, which is appealing and interesting. Most of us can relate to a few aspects of her life. It is a long description, but I think it was needed because its implications are so powerful. I just loved the way the book starts.
After that she talks about personal data, how it’s used, who gets it and why, the implications of giving out our private data. She makes a very good point about the stupidity (my words) of “I have nothing to hide”. As if (my example), the people who said they have nothing to hide would show their internet searches to their spouses or a bank statement to their parents and, in both those cases, it’s much more likely that the spouses and the parents care more about them than Google and Amazon do.
Some of the details included in the book are chilling, when it comes to medical data and how easily it was for an NHS Trust to break the trust their patients put in them and share personal data with a third party without having asked for the consent before doing that.
She finishes the book with a list of things we all can do to protect our privacy and our children’s privacy. I am shocked, I have to admit, when I see parents happily showing pictures of their children without thinking of the implication of their actions. A picture with a child having a tantrum today can impact their chances in the future, depending on what the programmers who make the algorithms think about that. We all should think of what we share and why we share it too because, as she very rightly points out, what we share does not affect only us but all around us too.
I will make some changes after reading the book, which is pretty amazing, considering that I already use a lot of privacy settings, I have VPN, I hardly share anything on Facebook, and I think about all the things I share online. Probably because I am a blogger with 3 blogs (lifestyle and food, besides this one), I realize how important privacy is and, surprisingly, I share less online than some of my friends, without blogs.
I will leave a quote from the book, while I urge you to buy/borrow it and read it:
“That we are allowing companies to profit from the knowledge that someone has a disease, or has lost their son in a car accident, or has been the victim of a rape, is revolting.”
Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz
Details about the picture: food, something we share on social media, but that can say so much about us, without realizing. This slice is a M&S vegan cheesecake slice, which can mean that: if I was living in US I would be more likely to vote for Democrats as their environmental policies are stronger; that I can afford £4 for 2 slices of cake from the supermarket; it might mean that I would be more willing to buy something that is vegan in the future. This might not be much, but, if you add the information obtained on my likes and shares on social media, a company might know if I am vegan or just doing veganuary. Also… none of these details are relevant if I would want to buy a new vacuum cleaner or a book, so why collect it/share it.
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: YES!
Published by: Bantam Press
Year it was published: 2020
Genre(s): Non-fiction – IT
About the author: Carissa Véliz is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Institute for Ethics in AI, as well as a Tutorial Fellow at Hertford College, at the University of Oxford.
She works on digital ethics, including privacy and AI ethics, practical ethics, political philosophy, and public policy.
Website & Social Media Links: carissaveliz & she is on twitter at @carissaveliz