WASHINGTON, DC—When author Julia Angwin has to post a photo of herself online, she now prefers to use a stencil image of her face in order to avoid detection by facial recognition software. Welcome to her paranoid world of trying to frustrate increasingly sophisticated snoops.
In conducting research for her impressive new book, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance, the investigative reporter delved deep into the current state of ubiquitous online surveillance and data mining by corporate and government actors. Speaking at the New America Foundation in the nation’s capitol on Wednesday afternoon, Angwin described how, in the year leading up to the book’s publication, she decided to internalize the focus of her inquiry. She used her own attempts to “reclaim her privacy” as a case study for the challenges in eluding the digital dragnets.
As any number of articles from the last year may indicate, privacy in a post-Snowden culture is extremely difficult to attain. Angwin’s book describes the current dragnets as “indiscriminate” and “vast in scope,” explaining that the East German secret police, known as the Stasi—described by some as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to ever have existed—would have been in awe of the National Security Agency’s current capabilities. “The Stasi managed to generate fear with a fraction of the tools we currently have,” she explained in her talk.
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