Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 30 Mar 2006

No Place to Hide

Robert O'Harrow, "No Place to Hide" - 
The terrifying truth about the people who are watching our every move,
Penguin Books (paperback), London
First published in Great Britain 2006 

Robert Harrow is a reporter for the Financial and Investigative Staffs at The Washington Post as well as an associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2000 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as a result of his articles on privacy and technology and in 2003 he won the Carnegie Mellon Cyber Security Reporting Award.

His book, "No Place to Hide" focuses on what appears to be his main interest - the development of surveillance technology in modern society (specifically in America); what data is gathered, both by private companies and government officials; how this data is used and/or abused; and what consequences this has for society, both now and in the future. As you can imagine, this is highly topical and relevant, here as well as in America following the various terrorist attacks, particularly those on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 that have been occurring over the past few years. In the current climate, many ordinary citizens are concerned about public security and some are even willing to sacrifice some of their privacy for safety.

The book covers a range of topics. For example, it outlines some of the products that are offered, both to businesses and government departments (such as phone tapping equipment). As the book progresses, it reveals just how extensive this surveillance society has become - our every move can be recorded, not just from CCTV, but also where we log on to use the internet, from the GPS systems in our mobile phones and the credit card transactions we make. It also mentions the electronic cards used to swipe in and out of the underground in New York (similar to our Oyster cards in London perhaps?) which can also track our movements. Some people are having identity chips implanted under their skin, similar to those used to identify lost pets, and the potential prospect of having this enforced in the future is quite terrifying.

Robert O'Harrow has clearly researched this book very well, as can be assumed from his detailed list of sources at the back of the book. His writing is involving due to his use of dramatic narrative, as well as hugely informative. Perhaps not as dramatic as Orwell's 1984, but this is not a work of fiction, and would interest those who may wish to clarify the conspiracy theories surrounding our so-called Big Brother society. (M.N.)

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