After Snowden: Privacy Secrecy and Security in the Information Age

After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age (by Ronald Goldfarb, Edward Wasserman, and David Cole)

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What I found most amazing about this book

I found it equally amazing and disturbing that in our constitution nothing was mentioned on the topic of ‘privacy.’ Not a word, nary a mention…NOTHING.  This is problematic because where there is no mention, there are no rules. Herein lies the premise of this book.   Because there are no rules applying to privacy, there is a tendency of the government to “stretch” the powers of information gathering in the United States and on its citizens.  When every telephone call, email, text message, Facebook post or tweet is subject to interception and interpretation (let alone, occasional misinterpretation), we find ourselves sort of cast at sea without a paddle.  This is causing us to question everything that is going on for the purpose of “security.”  Those who have questioned these policies and practices have done so because they feel it is the most sensible thing to do and that we have the right as citizens to know.  It is a subject that will be debated over for years to come!

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I cannot find much to dislike about this book.  I suppose the only thing I could say is that I wish the people in charge of some of the covert programs that are currently in operation would take a moment to seriously reevaluate the potential long term damage this may be causing to the American people.  I would also like to for them to be more forthright concerning what our rights are turning into during the Information Age.  I imagine that they have some ideas, but are hesitant to share because of the anticipated backlash (or, perhaps they just don’t feel we need to know).  Regardless, I just think it might be better for us all in the long haul. Constant paranoia and pessimism is probably not a healthy state of mind in the nation’s big picture.  I think it’s fair to say that George Orwell (author of 1984 and the ‘big brother’ concept) is probably doing somersaults in his grave.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.  No age is either too young or unsophisticated to realize that most of our ‘technological engagements’ – from smartphone calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and simple emails ALL may be subject to review and even more.  We may think that we don’t have any “friends” that are under surveillance, but THEY may have second or third degree “friends” who MIGHT BE.  So, if we are all just fine with the likelihood of falling prey to unwanted surveillance – like Edward Snowden, Bradley (a.k.a. “Chelsea”) Manning and others have claimed) – then perhaps we are overreacting.  If we’re not fine with this, then perhaps we’re not overreacting one bit.

Any thoughts?

 

The Invisibles

 

By Jesse J. Holland (published, 2016)

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This book focused on a topic that most of us have never come across in our many years of American History book reading and study.  It delves into the contributions made by African slaves living and serving their masters in the U.S. White House.  At first, it may seem to many of us that this couldn’t have been possible (mostly because it was omitted from our education lessons), but given the era in which it took place and the financial constraints the U.S.A. was under in its infancy, it is obvious that this was one of the ways which our founders used to build up a nation “on a financial shoestring.”

What I found most amazing about this book

I learned that 12 of our first 18 U.S. presidents had slaves actively serving them and their families in the White House.  It is a stunning statistic, but also a sobering exposé on a topic that needs to be discussed much more often than it has been in our time.  We must remember that these slaves were in no better or privileged position than slaves serving in any other area of the country.  They simply served their masters in what is considered the single most treasured landmark in America – the White House.

What I did NOT like about this book

In my opinion, there was nothing to dislike about this book.

Whom do I recommend should read this book?

This is a great book for almost all ages.  I would have liked to have known many of the facts and seen the gallery of photos exhibited in the pages of this book when I was a young man.  As painful as some of the events could be to some readers, it is still very important to be aware of and acknowledge.  The author, Jesse Holland, does a wonderful job in taking us methodically (to the extent possible) through the era.

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Phishing for Phools Book Review (by George Akerlof and Bob Shiller)

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The gist of this book is the myriad ways in which our culture is directly and/ or indirectly affected by those who may  (or may not) always have our best interests in mind.

What I liked about this book

One of the interesting references the book makes is concerning the marketing ideas conceived by a company you may be aware of, Cinnabon, as an example of luring weary (and often times hungry) air travelers by the delicacy’s notorious “scent” and how strategically placing kiosks near airport gates became an easy means of trapping the traveler while at his or her weakest emotional moments.  This makes for easy prey – and astronomical profits!  This would hardly be a problem but for the fact that if the traveler were thinking straight, they might realize that they are about to scarf down over 800 calories per treat!   Not a good trade-off for a momentary fill.

It’s funny, but this reminds me of a similar situation I encounter often when I pick my children up from school in the afternoon.  I noticed about 10-15 minutes prior to the bell ringing, I see an old, rickety blue ice cream truck ripping around the corner to secure the most strategically-located spot for the schoolchildren (soon to be excused by the bell – which I’m sure he knows the exact time it is scheduled to occur).  What is even more peculiar (and a bonus to Mr. Ice Cream) is  not only how easy the pickings are with the kids,  but because we live in a very hot and dry area, he even corrals more than a few of the “big kids” (i.e. the parents) who cannot resist the chance to grab some ice cold sugar for a quick fix.  Well, so much for that early morning workout in the park, right?

Whether we are talking about a multi-million dollar franchise pushing high fat, sugary items our way at our weakest moments, or a barely solvent ice cream pusher capitalizing on our child-like tendencies, both are clear examples of how to enact a sneaky yet highly effective method to lure us into parting with our money and blowing up our bellies in the process “without thought.” Though all is perfectly legal, it is proof of the concept of  baiting the weak and  “phishing for phools!”

What I did NOT like about this book…

Nothing! It’s an excellent read with many interesting points made.

Whom do I recommend should read this book

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys a quick and enjoyable read.  It is good for all ages and would even work well entered into a bibliography for any book or book report in the area of psychology or the use of subliminal marketing techniques with respect to how we are easily ( and often negatively) influenced by others in our daily decisions.

 

The Third Wave – by Steve Case

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What I liked most about this book

The most interesting thing about this book is how the author tied together our most significant technological advances since the 1980s with the political, economic and social issues these advances most affected. Because he has had influence on the highest levels in both the private (business) and public (government) sectors, he was able to explain all of the nuances that only an insider could.

What challenges (or dislikes) about this book

I suppose the only challenge was trying to understand how someone could build a company (AOL) into a monster valuation and then be “unhappy” with how the circumstances turned out during and after the merger with Time/Warner.

For a reader (like me) who is also an entrepreneur, it’s strange to think that anyone could be unhappy with the results he achieved. Entrepreneurs traditionally work so hard and diligently for such a long time – and often with less than satisfactory results – that one never envisions the potential for any unhappiness in this process.  It was certainly both an eye-opener and a reminder of the cold realities of our complex business world.  That said, all entrepreneurs (satisfied or unsatisfied) should thank Steve Case for being so honest with his feelings in “letting us in” to experience a moment with him that most successful businesspeople are too proud to ever let us see.
Why and to whom would I recommend this book

This book is an outstanding read for anyone and everyone who is alive and well today.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all living in the Third Wave that is described in this book.

In the beginning of the book, I was very enthusiastic about sharing this information with my pre-teen children.  They are now in what I coined their iPod stage (in obvious hopes to rapidly accelerate into their iPhone stage).  But I often wonder how unaware they are of what we had to endure in the “old tech days” (i.e. the 90s and before).

I recall (as late as 2001) making daily references to the old AOL online process: which included modem screeches, awful delays and call drops.  However, as Steve Case properly explains, it was not only all we had, but just the starting point of so many monumental gains to come.  All of our children would feel cheated if they had to climb into a time machine for a day and revert to those days, but then again, what did we say to our parents with all of their “tech troubles?”  We should be very proud of our tech advancements and in introducing it all to the next generation.

 

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War – by Fred Kaplan

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What I liked about this book

I thought the book did an incredible job enlightening us about how easily our “inter-connected cyber world” can turn from convenience and ease to inconvenience and horror.  One of the prominent themes was “anything we can do, they can do back to us.”  It’s a defining indication of how far we’ve come in technology – but also, the price we should expect to pay for our gains.

What was most challenging about this book
The most challenging issue is understanding that many of our “complaints” about international spying, hacking, etc. online is often a practice that originated domestically.  It will be more difficult, after digesting the contents of this book, to simply point the finger at the rest of the cyber world for some of the ideas we may have started right here at home. Whether this is good or bad is to be determined, but the facts are laid out in this book and are arguable.

Why and to whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an online business (or plans to create one), or simply has a genuine interest in cyber security as either a hobby or potential profession.  I also think it is a great read for anyone who is interested in learning HOW we have gotten to the “point of no return” in our knowledge of the cyber world and all of the amazing details involved.

 

 

 

Alexander Hamilton – by Ron Chernow

 

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What I liked most about this book

 I liked the way Ron Chernow laid out the book.  His writing style made it an amazing read and allows the reader to quickly get in the flow to obtain a full understanding of the complicated brilliance of this man (Hamilton) and his amazing contributions to the formation of the U.S.A. in such a brief time – while simultaneously addressing the issues that led him to an early and tragic death.

 What was most challenging about this book

 The biggest challenge of this book was simply keeping it balanced and upright while reading all 730 pages!  My left wrist and fingers took quite a beating from many weeks of twists and turns. However, the pain was well worth it!

 Why and to whom would I recommend this book

 I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a lot about our country’s start (and probably over the age of 12). There are so many compelling details of which many of us probably are completely unaware. Finally, it is a great way to gain a better understanding of how the United States of America took shape, what the environment was like at the time, and who made the greatest impact.