Privacy: And How to Get It Back

Earlier this year author B.J. Mendelson emailed me and asked if I would like to talk with him about privacy and personal data in the era of Facebook. That was right about the time I decided to end the regular podcast so we didn't connect for a talk, but he kindly sent me a copy of his book Privacy: And How to Get It Back. I've recently had time to read the book, and since I have also recently deleted myself from Facebook, I thought it was a good time to finally get this review done.

Mendelson approaches this subject with humor and snark, and an eye toward what we can do about the use of our data in the 21st century. His book also ends each chapter with a summary, making it useful as a reference tool or textbook of sorts. It would be beneficial just to read this book so everyone can understand all the ways in which we generate data every day and how that in turn is used and sold. It's clear that we've plowed headlong into the era of social media with little forethought. But beyond that, Mendelson takes the time to give a brief history of privacy, data collection, and the laws and behaviors of the government and companies even going all the way back to the late 18th century. We may have new ways of blithely putting information about our lives out where anyone can find it, but in many ways it's not new. It's just much easier now for that information to be bought, sold, and misused.

And to be sure this goes far beyond social media (for a more Social Media centered book, read Mendelson's
Social Media Is Bullshit). Everything from our growing "Internet-of-Things" to our DNA profile is potentially on the sales block, and the laws that exist in the US are woefully inadequate. But not all is lost and there is a lot you can do to protect yourself in the online world. Start by reading this book to actually comprehend what's going on in the black box of modern data collection. And when you're done, Mendelson offers up a long list of further reading at the end of the book. We're living in the time that Carl Sagan feared, where more and more people rely on technology they don't understand. B.J. Mendelson's book will arm you with some valuable tools to combat your own ignorance, so that you can join others in leaning on the government and tech companies to behave better. We got here very quickly and the road back might be slow, but now is always a good time to start.

B.J. Mendelson, is a keynote speaker, author, and comic book writer. His books include Social Media Is Bullshit from St. Martin’s Press and Privacy: And How We Can Get It Back from Curious Reads. His comic books include Vengeance, Nevada and A National Story of Minor Significance.

Buy his books here
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