The End of Privacy is a book about power--more specifically, it discusses surveillance as a powerful mechanism of social control. Philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault developed the concept of the "panopticon," an ideal prison where compliance with rules is guaranteed through complete and inescapable surveillance. Applying the principles involved to real-world examples that trace the development of surveillance technologies from Second World War military intelligence to the electronic data-veillance of the information revolution, Whitaker provides a thorough analysis of how our society may be gradually approaching panopticism.
Thanks to dramatic technological advances, surveillance monitoring can now provide nearly global coverage, exposing the everyday lives of ordinary people--in the workplace, at school, on the Internet, everywhere--to serve public, private, and prurient interests. Today, Whitaker notes, private-information brokers amass databases for an innumerable variety of commercial purposes--from credit reporting to mass marketing. Vast amounts of detailed personal information, including seemingly useless minutiae, end up in corporate hands. Orwell's monolithic Big Brother has fragmented into a myriad of Little Brothers, which add up to a powerful system with little or no accountability. Who, Whitaker asks, watches the watchers? --Tim Hogan
Now in paperback, a sobering look at the threats to privacy posed by the new information technologies. Called "one of the best books yet written on the new information age" by Kirkus Reviews and now available in paperback, The End of Privacy shows how vast amounts of personal information are moving into corporate hands. Once there, this data can be combined and used to develop electronic profiles of individuals and groups that are potentially far more detailed, and far more intrusive, than the files built up in the past by state police and security agencies. Reg Whitaker shows that private e-mail can be read; employers can monitor workers' every move throughout the work day; and the U.S. Treasury can track every detail of personal and business finances. He goes on to demonstrate that we are even more vulnerable as consumers. From the familiar--bar-coding, credit and debit cards, online purchases--to the seemingly sci---"smart cards" that encode medical and criminal records, and security scans that read DNA--The End of Privacy reveals how ordinary citizens are losing control of the information about them that is available to anyone who can pay for it.