When a tax payment from the Ross family was lost in the mail, the IRS categorised them as deadbeats; the misinformation, spread like a virus through the nations databanks, and the Rosses soon fell into a black hole of credit troubles.
When Robert Rivera filed suit against a supermarket where he slipped and fell, the store used his frequent-buyer records to claim that liquor purchases led to his accident.
And today, candidates for public office must assume that opponents and journalists may obtain their personal records from hospitals, insurance companies, and other seemingly private databases.
As the 21st century dawns, advances in technology endanger our privacy in ways never before imagined. Direct marketers and retailers track our every purchase; surveillance cameras observe our movements; mobile phones will soon report our location to those who want to track us; government eavesdroppers listen in on private communications; misused medical records turn our bodies and our histories against us; and linked databases assemble detailed consumer profiles used to predict and influence our behavior. Privacy-the most basic of our civil rights-is in grave peril.
Simson Garfinkel-journalist, entrepreneur, and international authority on computer security-has spent his career testing new technologies and warning about their implications. Database Nation is his compelling account of how invasive technologies will affect our lives in the coming years. It's timely, far-reaching, entertaining, and thought-provoking look at the serious threats to privacy facing us today. The book poses a disturbing question: how can we protect our basic rights to privacy, identity, and autonomy when technology is making invasion and control easier than ever before?
Garfinkel's captivating blend of journalism, story-telling, and futurism is a call to arms. It will frighten, entertain, and ultimately convince us that we must take action now to protect our privacy and identity before it's too late.