Data Privacy Reading List

With the 2020 Census within striking distance, lots of folks are working hard to ensure a fair and equitable count while also raising concerns about the implications of our first digital census.

This past week, I attended a convening hosted by the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School. It was a day full of discussions about the risks of the asking all U.S. residents to share sensitive data using the web. We discussed data privacy, online security, and data confidentiality. and gave feedback on the report done by the DEL’s team of excellent consultants.

Given my work with NYC Digital Safety and also as a trainer in data privacy and online security, I had a lot to share about how a digital census could put some of our most sensitive data at risk. At least two people at the convening wondered how they themselves could learn more, and I promised to share my reading list. So here it is.

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier 
I return to this book before each and every privacy workshop I teach. Published in 2015, this book offers a clear and readable overview of who is collecting our data and why they might be collecting it. What’s more, the book offers cogent and realistic suggestions for those of us who are taking action.

The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick
This one’s great for straight-up advice on how to protect your privacy. Mitnick goes deep; by the end of the book, I was ready to go on the lam.

Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin
Written by one of my heroes, Dragnet Nation is another easy point of entry into issues of data privacy and security. Angwin cogently details all of the things that should worry us about our networked society, and writes a great history of surveillance as well.

Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life by Helen Nissenbaum
This book is more scholarly than the others, and has the benefit of sharing a framework that explains how we got to be in this place of rapid data sharing and collection. I share Nissenbaum’s framework in every privacy-related workshop I teach.

Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Malendez
An inside look at how privacy-obliterating ad tech got its start.

Data privacy and security books in my TBR pile:

  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
  • No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald
  • Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitinick
  • Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

Of course, my research doesn’t end at long-form non-fiction. I also keep up with privacy-related news by reading newspapers and magazines (New York Times and Washington Post in particular), keeping up with non-profits working in tech (EFF, Mozilla, Tactical Tech) and by tuning in to podcasts (Reply All, Note to Self).

I’ll close with a note that this all gets to be pretty heavy after awhile. I tend to dive deep in order to ensure upcoming workshops are fully up-to-date and accurate. Beyond that, I adhere to many of the practices outlined in the book. And I give myself lots of space to be a human, away from tech. After all, if you don’t use their products, they can’t as easily track you.