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No Place to Hide
ISBN 0743254805 / 9780743254809 / 0-7432-5480-5
Publisher Free Press
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George Orwell envisioned Big Brother as an outgrowth of a looming totalitarian state, but in this timely survey Robert O'Harrow Jr. portrays a surveillance society that's less centralized and more a joint public/private venture. Indeed, the most frightening aspect of the Washington Post reporter's thoroughly researched and naggingly disquieting chronicle lies in the matter-of-fact nature of information hunters and gatherers and the insatiable systems they've concocted. Here is a world where data is gathered by relatively unheralded organizations that smooth the way for commercial entities to find the good customers and avoid dicey ones. Government of course too has an interest in the data that's been mined. Information is power, especially when trying to find the bad guys. The mutually compatible skills and needs shared by private and public snoopers were fusing prior to the attacks of 9/11, but the process has since gone into hyperdrive. O'Harrow weaves together vignettes to record the development of the "security-industrial complex," taking pains to personalize his chronicle of a movement that's remained (perhaps purposefully) faceless. Recognizing the appeal of state-of-the-art systems that can track down a murderer/rapist with heretofore unimaginable speed, the author recognizes, too, that the same devices can mistakenly destroy reputations and cast a pall over a free society. In a post-9/11 world where homeland security often trumps personal liberty, this work is an eye-opener for those who take their privacy for granted. --Steven Stolder [via]