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The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance

The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance. By Colin J. Bennett. MIT Press,; 288 pages; $28.00.

Most people in the United States are unaware of how their privacy is violated and, consequently, are unconcerned. Young people, in particular, give away personal information without reservation. Politicians do not lose votes if they promote privacy-invading schemes, and those who oppose them tend not to gain votes because of their stance. There are exceptions to that, of course, and there are privacy advocacy groups.

Some people object to exposing their personal information, while others do not. U.S. citizens generally accept census taking without concern, but Dutch people have sought to avoid it, remembering that Nazis used census records for persecution. In the United States, there is no privacy agency, but Congress has contemplated creating one. Even the most ardent collectors of information and supporters of surveillance might be indignant at some practices, such as the inability of the Transportation Security Administration to be forthcoming about whether body images need to be stored for later viewing.

This academic work frames the problem of excessive surveillance and describes threats to privacy. It explores the many groups and individuals who resist the exposure of personal information and look out for the rights of everyone. The book notes that different people have different ideas of what privacy entails. In countries with unelected governments, it can mean not receiving a visit from the secret police. For others, it means not having their personal information bought and sold as a commodity.

The book explores the activists that work to preserve privacy and points out their victories and disappointments. Regardless of the reader’s stance on the topic, this work exposes as a myth the notion that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Reviewer: G. Ernest Govea, CPP, is the facility security officer and security director of government security for Parsons in Pasa­dena,California. He has protected classified information for 35 years in the military and defense contractor community. A Vietnam veteran, he is a member of ASIS.