Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy

By David O. Best

***** Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy. By David H. Holtzman; published by Jossey-Bass, (Web); 352 pages; $24.95.

Few issues are as critical as personal data protection, and yet the loss or compromise of personal data has become nearly routine. This book provides a clear overview of the risks to privacy in the Digital Age, who the perpetrators are, and what we can do about it.

Author David H. Holtzman first shows how privacy violations affect our culture, our government, and most importantly, us. He breaks down privacy violations into seven categories or “sins,” and offers corresponding “commandments” for an ethical approach to protecting privacy, going into far more depth than most current privacy policies.

One of the author’s more insightful statements is: “There is really only one computer in the world.” He observes that linkages between the tens of millions of computer systems that make up the Internet facilitate both easy access to information and its widespread abuse.

Holtzman tackles his topic’s most fundamental question: “Is privacy a right?” To answer that question, he thoroughly examines the legal basis for privacy, and argues that new and updated laws are needed to protect privacy in this technology-rich age.

The book covers several new types of bad behavior (maybe not yet technically crimes) that would have been impossible over a decade ago, like abuse and misuse of an avatar—a user’s digitally animated online likeness.

With avatars, people are free to act in any way they like and portray themselves however they wish. Conversely, users can adopt another person’s virtual identity, or hijack it, a practice known as “puppetry.” The unsettling phenomenon of “golem porn,” or simulated pornography, occurs when a person’s likeness is adopted for sexual purposes.

More common crimes include spreading disinformation about another person and using intelligent software applications called “proofing systems” to falsely describe users. Of course, no discussion of privacy is complete without consideration of government policies that may invade a person’s privacy. Holtzman reviews post-9-11 actions by the federal government including “no-fly” lists, the Patriot Act, and recent domestic surveillance initiatives. The question of how to provide the appropriate protection while maintaining expected privacy, however, remains unanswered.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about privacy protection. While you may not always agree with the author’s views, this is a well-researched and well-written book that provides an insightful overview of a dynamic problem.

Reviewer: David O. Best, CPP, ISP (Information Systems Professional), CBM (Certified Business Manager), works for ManTech Security & Mission Assurance as an information security analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He is a member of ASIS International.



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