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I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy [Hardcover]

Lori Andrews

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Book Description

Jan. 10 2012 1451650515 978-1451650518
A leading specialist on social networks writes a shocking exposé of the widespread misuse of our personal online data and creates a Constitution for the web to protect us.

Social networks are the defining cultural movement of our time. Over a half a billion people are on Facebook alone. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest nation in the world. But while that nation appears to be a comforting small town in which we can share photos of friends and quaint bits of trivia about our lives, it is actually a lawless battle zone—a frontier with all the hidden and unpredictable dangers of any previously unexplored place.

Social networks offer freedom. An ordinary individual can be a reporter, alerting the world to breaking news of a natural disaster or a political crisis. A layperson can be a scientist, participating in a crowd-sourced research project. Or an investigator, helping cops solve a crime.

But as we work and chat and date (and sometimes even have sex) over the web, traditional rights may be slipping away. Colleges and employers routinely reject applicants because of information found on social networks. Cops use photos from people’s profiles to charge them with crimes—or argue for harsher sentences. Robbers use postings about vacations to figure out when to break into homes. At one school, officials used cameras on students’ laptops to spy on them in their bedrooms.

The same power of information that can topple governments can also topple a person’s career, marriage, or future. What Andrews proposes is a Constitution for the web, to extend our rights to this wild new frontier. This vitally important book will generate a storm of attention.

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Review

"Unnerving narrative about the misuse of personal online information—without our knowledge—to track, judge and harm us in innumerable aspects of our lives.

"Social-network executives often dismiss online privacy concerns: 'You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it,' said Sun Microsystems’ Scott McNealy. But the constitutional freedoms of millions of people posting personal data on Facebook and other networks are violated routinely, and the law has not kept up with the new technology, writes lawyer Andrews (Institute for Science, Law and Technology/Illinois Institute of Technology; Immunity, 2008, etc.). Noting that social networks make their profits on users’ data, she describes the multibillion-dollar industry of data aggregators who mine online data for the advertising industry, often 'weblining' people, denying them certain opportunities due to observations about their digital selves. Most users have no idea how much information is being collected about them: 'People have a misplaced trust that what they post is private.' The results can be devastating: A Georgia teacher posted a photo showing her drinking a glass of Guinness at an Irish brewery, and she was forced to resign after the photo was e-mailed anonymously to her school superintendent. After seeing a mother’s MySpace page showing her posing provocatively in lingerie, a judge awarded custody of her young children to her husband. 'Virtually every interaction a person has in the offline world can be tainted by social network information,' writes the author, who proposes creating a 'Social Network Constitution' to govern our lives online. Her governing principles would protect against police searches of social networks without probable cause, require social networks to post conspicuous Miranda-like privacy warnings and set rules for the use or collecting of user information.

"Authoritative, important reading for policymakers and an unnerving reminder that anything you post can and will be used against you."

--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Lori Andrews is the director of the Institute for Science, Law, and Technology at Illinois Institute of Technology. She was named a “Newsmaker of the Year” by the American Bar Association Journal and has served as a regular advisor to the U.S. government on ethical issues regarding new technologies. Learn more at LoriAndrews.com.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but Overly Legalistic - Jan. 10 2012
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Andrews' book starts out focusing on Facebook, but then goes beyond that topic to the broader issue of firms using the Internet to research customers and sell the information to advertisers, potential employers, etc., and the sometimes negative consequences of their doing so. The material is good and eye-opening, but much of it is overly legalistic (eg. Constitutional and court case references) for my taste.

Facebook has 750 million members, and its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been pitching it as a means of increasing public participation in the political process. Already some have used it to incite and facilitate street protests. Other more nefarious uses include dessiminating terrorist training materials, finding potential burglary targets out on vacation, and sometimes taking personal photos and information out of context. The Department of Homeland Security now monitors it for some 350 terms, per a 1/11 listing. Member privacy has been a major and recurring concern throughout Facebook's lifetime.

Facebook earned $1.9 billion in advertising revenue in 2010, and another 4200 million from revenue-sharing agreements with applications that run on the site (eg. games). Its 2010 Internet ad revenues exceeded those of newspapers by 2010 - 63% of advertising agencies report targeted ads (per online behavior) have increased their revenues. Facebook, however, makes up only 14.6% of the behavioral advertising market.

Cookies, Flash cookies, and zombie cookies collect user information and sell it to others; similarly, search engine logs help to improve searches and also target their (eg. Google) advertising results. Some companies/sites allow users to opt out of being tracked; however, if you don't know who they are, that's not going to happen. Further, many sites don't function properly unless the user accepts cookies, some opt-outs don't work as promised, and others are only temporary.

The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it illegal to intentionally access a protected computer without authorization; transmitting and obtaining information from such sources are also illegal. However, an actionable violation must cause at least $5,000 in damages, which the author asserts is usually difficult to prove. Other laws are even less useful because they only require approval of the snooping etc. from the site doing it.

Author Lori Andrews is a law professor, hence the legal emphasis throughout the bulk of the book. Her going back to concerns about paparazzi-type actions by early Kodak camera users was one of the more interesting legal references.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chilling Yet Important Book Jan. 14 2012
By Verbtuoso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As someone who is on Facebook many times every day, I read this book with a mixture of dread and rapt fascination. Andrews tells amazing, horrifying and incredible true stories of people who's lives have been altered forever by their presence on social networks. But more importantly, she provides a cogent prescription for how to make the web safer for all of us by presenting a Social Network Constitution. I think of this book often: especially every time I describe an interest of mine on the internet -- and seconds later see an ad for it.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars on point and long over-due Jan. 28 2012
By Bruce Patsner, M.D., J.D. Professor of Law Yonsei University - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We are what we post, claims Andrews. She shows how the same power of social networks that can topple governments can also topple a person's career, marriage, or future. One woman lost custody of her child due to a sexy photo on Facebook. A 24-year-old teacher lost her job because one of her 700 vacation photos posted on the web showed her visiting a Guinness factory. Andrews shows how anyone who has ever use the internet to undertake a Google search, email a colleague, or join an organization is vulnerable to having that information used against him (or her). She provides specifics about what's at risk--and how people can protect themselves. The subject matter of Andrews' book could not be more timely; her concern for the invisible erosion of personal privacy rights is totally on point.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Newsworthy April 14 2012
By Middle aged male - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a must read if you have any interest in privacy. The gist of the author's work is that you have almost none on the internet. If you think that deleting information fixes your concerns, you are wrong!

Do you use a popular free email service? Guess what, you might as well be standing on the street corner with a megaphone.

This book frightened me and angered me. I was frightened by the unregulated "Wild West" business practices by internet prowlers and angered by my own ignorance up to this point. As the author points out, if you are not in the internet/web business, what goes on behind the scenes is much worse than you know. The biggest sites are the biggest offenders, starting with Facebook (privacy settings are meaningless).

You should read (reread) this book everytime you plan to subscibe to ANY website!

The reason for four stars intead of five is due to the author's lobbying for some sort of internet constitution. My copy of the book is on loan to a friend, so I can't quote the precise nomenclature; but I would have preferred fewer pages on this idea. Just a small nit to pick, the book is still a good read for ANY internet user.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does Big Brother Work for the Private Sector Now? March 17 2012
By ThirstyBrooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Even if you allow for the way its sensationalizes its anecdotes, "I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did" is sensational. For the most part the book seems overblown, because most of this nosiness just makes sure we're not bombarded with ads for things that don't interest us.

But there's harsh reality here, too. Mindless redistribution of personal information for high stakes uses like credit scoring, hiring decisions and legal evidence hurts people. Just this week I was denied an apartment rental because some stranger who shares my first and last name almost a thousand miles away was arrested on drug charges. It's devilishly hard to prove you're NOT somebody about whom no one knows much besides a common name.

Andrews provides a ton of good information on which apps and which companies are involved in which kinds of infringements on your online existence. Anyone who cares about online privacy and data integrity really ought to read this book.

The book winds up with the observation that social networking sites, especially Facebook, have enrolled us all in a face recognition program that tags us in photos whether or not we choose to be tagged. In fact, it may tag you even if you're not a Facebook user. If the photo caption says it's been 'Shopped, no one need link that caption to the photo. Nor can the photo be deleted from backup services like Wayback. Commercial users can make whatever conclusions they want from this photo, without authenticating it. Data protection authorities in Hamburg Germany demanded that Facebook delete its citizens from this database, and Facebook is insisting its technology complies with EU data protection laws. Further, Facebook reserves the right to change its privacy policies any time it chooses to do so.

Andrews' book may not suit all audiences. It's boring in places because it gives too much text without internal structure and leans too heavily on anecdotes. Readers need to think carefully about the ideas presented here. Many things are blown out of proportion. In many other ways, we may only see the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of the book, the author provides the "Social Network Constitution" from the 21st Annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference. Your ideas may differ, but the more people appreciate these problems and care about decent answers, the better off we all will be.
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