Database Nation
The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: December 2000
Pages: 338

Fifty years ago, in 1984, George Orwell imagined a future in which privacy was demolished by a totalitarian state that used spies, video surveillance, historical revisionism, and control over the media to maintain its power. Those who worry about personal privacy and identity--especially in this day of technologies that encroach upon these rights--still use Orwell's "Big Brother" language to discuss privacy issues. But the reality is that the age of a monolithic Big Brother is over. And yet the threats are perhaps even more likely to destroy the rights we've assumed were ours.Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century shows how, in these early years of the 21st century, 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 devoted his career to testing new technologies and warning about their implications. This newly revised update of the popular hardcover edition of Database Nation is his compelling account of how invasive technologies will affect our lives in the coming years. It's a 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, storytelling, 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.

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(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


Database Nation Review

By John M

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Database Nation:

I have just completed a reading of "Database Nation" by Simson Garfinkel. This book first grabbed my attention because of my interest in data confidentiality and the apparent database focus implied by the book title. The glaring eye peering through the keyhole on the cover also did a lot to grab my attention.

As I began to read the book, I found that the exploration into the history of the social security number very interesting. The further exploration into biometrics was a great follow up. I have often wondered how biometrics could be compromised short of gruesome mutilation. This section of the book reminded me that this information is converted into data and stored which makes it equally vulnerable as any other piece of data.

Throughout the book there were some very interesting and thought provoking concepts. The one that seemed to stand out is the question of who really owns your data. Also presented were the many methods in which our privacy is compromised on a daily basis - voluntarily or otherwise.

The chapter on "Kooks and Terrorists" was on the money. Knowing that this book was written in the pre-September 11, 2001 days the perspective on this aspect was eerily accurate; including how the government may approach privacy in light of such an event.

I have read a few reviews of this book that I have found online. There were two points that were raised by others in regard to the perspective of this book that I felt compelled to comment upon:

The first point was that it did not present a global perspective on the subject. I did not really find that this should be an issue. The challenge to this subject, as was pointed out in this book, is that the state of privacy varies significantly throughout the world. There are certainly areas in the world where this subject has been impressively addressed while other areas the concept of privacy is non-existent. There is certainly much to be said and improved upon about the state of privacy in the US. The land of liberty and independence of the individual should be the leading advocate of privacy.

The second point was that some items that were presented are too much science-fiction. I would argue that science-fiction cannot begin to touch the current infringements of privacy. With a little investigation the reality of some of these concepts stand out. One of the tactics noted was "Brain Wiretapping". While that concept may, on the surface, sound like something from the Matrix, I recently ran across an article that shows how this concept is being proposed for interrogation tactics. (Click here ( to read it)

In summary, I enjoyed this book and it has spurred many conversations among my peers. I certainly recommend this read. Despite being a seven year old book, it remains amazingly relevant.

(3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)


Database Nation <i>(Paperback)</i> Review

By Erik

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Database Nation:

This is the single best book on the Privacy and why it should be a basic right!

I sent an email to Chris Matthews of because his show focuses on politicial issues and hopefully he will cover this very important issue, since this issue about the survival of Democracy. Read this book after you have read Orwell's book 1984 and a chill will go down your spine.

My website: will have a tutorial on how to protect your privacy on the internet. ( It will be up in about a month )

Also, I Highly Recommend Oreilly books as being the best on IT bar none!

Check out, makes you invisible to isp's and websites.

PS: The book PGP: Pretty Good Privacy By Simson Garfinkel is the best book on PGP as this is the best file encryption program and most common.

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