[Book] Privacy is Power

Privacy is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data
Carissa Véliz
Bantam Press
September 2020, 288 pages

The first book to call for the end of the data economy. Carissa Veliz exposes how our personal data is giving too much to big tech and governments, why that matters, and what we can do about it.

Have you ever been denied insurance, a loan, or a job? Have you had your credit card number stolen? Do you have to wait too long when you call customer service? Have you paid more for a product than one of your friends? Have you been harassed online? Have you noticed politics becoming more divisive in your country? You might have the data economy to thank for all that and more.

The moment you check your phone in the morning you are giving away your data. Before you’ve even switched off your alarm, a whole host of organisations have been alerted to when you woke up, where you slept, and with whom. Our phones, our TVs, even our washing machines are spies in our own homes.

Without your permission, or even your awareness, tech companies are harvesting your location, your likes, your habits, your relationships, your fears, your medical issues, and sharing it amongst themselves, as well as with governments and a multitude of data vultures. They’re not just selling your data. They’re selling the power to influence you and decide for you. Even when you’ve explicitly asked them not to. And it’s not just you. It’s all your contacts too, all your fellow citizens. Privacy is as collective as it is personal.

Digital technology is stealing our personal data and with it our power to make free choices. To reclaim that power, and our democracy, we must take back control of our personal data. Surveillance is undermining equality. We are being treated differently on the basis of our data.

What can we do? The stakes are high. We need to understand the power of data better. We need to start protecting our privacy. And we need regulation. We need to pressure our representatives. It is time to pull the plug on the surveillance economy.

Insightful, terrifying, practical: Privacy is Power highlights the implications of our laid-back attitude to data and sets out how we can take back control.

Carissa Véliz is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Institute for Ethics in AI, as well as a Tutorial Fellow at Hertford College, at the University of Oxford. Véliz has published articles in the Guardian, The New York Times, New Statesman, and the Independent. Her academic work has been published in The Harvard Business Review, Nature Electronics, Nature Energy, and The American Journal of Bioethics, among other journals. She is the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Digital Ethics.

> Book review in the Financial Times