DECEMBER 22, 2014 | BY PARKER HIGGINS
At the end of each year, EFF puts together a list of some of the interesting and noteworthy books that have been published in the past 12 months or so. We don’t endorse all of their arguments, but we find they’ve added some valuable insight to the conversation around the areas and issues on which we work. This year, we’ve included two movies as well—both highly-regarded documentaries that have introduced many people to very important issues.
Some notes about this list: it’s presented in alphabetical order by author’s last name, and most links contain our Amazon affiliate code, which means EFF will receive a portion of purchases made through this page. Descriptions are by Parker Higgins except where otherwise specified.
“Dragnet Nation” by Julia Angwin
In the past 18 months, the world has focused on surveillance by the NSA, the FBI, and other top government agencies. But of course, that’s just one element in a patchwork of a surveillance industry stretching all the way down from mega-corporations to individual websites. Julia Angwin covers this situation with a keen journalist’s eye, and goes one step further, asking what it would take to get “off the grid.”
“It’s Complicated” by danah boyd
It’s hard to believe this is danah boyd’s first book—she’s been a prominent voice in conversations about privacy norms and practices, especially among young people, for years now. But the wait was worth it, as “It’s Complicated” is a really thoughtful and incredibly well-researched take on the ways in which—despite moral panics and lamentations of the death of privacy and more—our values are making it into a new generation of the networked world (mostly) intact.
“Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy” by Biella Coleman
Anonymous has been one of the most significant forces in online activism over the last several years. And yet, few in the media understand what makes the ad hoc collective tick—and the result is usually shallow or inaccurate analysis. Biella Coleman, by contrast, is an anthropologist who spent years studying Anonymous, and that familiarity is reflected in this fascinating exploration of the group.
“Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free” by Cory Doctorow
Starting from the title, “Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free” is a provocative take from well-known copyfighter (and EFF Fellow) Cory Doctorow. But readers needn’t worry that Doctorow has turned his back on the cause of information freedom; instead, he’s calling for a more nuanced understanding of the issues that have been central to much of his work, and which promise to be even more central to everybody else’s in the years to come. This book is also available as a DRM-free audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton.
“No Place to Hide” by Glenn Greenwald
Greenwald’s new book details how he and journalist Laura Poitras met NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and then published a series of articles that would change Americans’ perception of their government, ignite a worldwide debate around surveillance, and challenge notions about investigative journalism. The book begins with a recounting of how Snowden made contact with the journalists and the risks and travails of publishing the controversial initial leaks. Then Greenwald walks through how the NSA and its international partners engage in a collect-it-all strategy that exploits modern communication technology, from underwater cables to cell phone towers. The book concludes with an impassioned examination of executive power, secret law, failed oversight, meek journalistic institutions—and how these dark forces can be fought with the courage of conviction, transparency, and independent journalism. –Rainey Reitman, from our full review in June
“Copyfight” by Blayne Haggart
It feels like every year opens up a new chapter in the battle between the copyright lobby and the open Web about the sorts of restrictions that will be placed on communications. But in order to really understand each new chapter, it helps to look to the ones that came before. In “Copyfight,” University of Toronto scholar Blayne Haggart looks back to the 1996 UN treaties that set the stage for the conflicts of the last two decades.
“@War” by Shane Harris
Journalist Shane Harris’s book covers the rise of what he calls the “military Internet complex"—the increasingly-close relationship between US corporations and intelligence agencies which is changing the Internet in fundamental ways. –Eva Galperin
”The Internet’s Own Boy“ directed by Brian Knappenberger
Those who knew Aaron Swartz need no explanation of what a remarkable individual he was—nor how he was able to have such an incredible impact on the Internet. But whether you knew him or not, Brian Knappenberger’s touching documentary tribute to Aaron provides background on the things he accomplished in his short life, and how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was used so unjustly against him. It’s an incredibly powerful film, released under a Creative Commons license and shortlisted for the Best Documentary Oscar.
”Spam Nation“ by Brian Krebs
There may be more glamorous forces shaping the digital world we live in today, but none are so ubiquitous as the dreaded spam. Brian Krebs, a well-known security expert, dives deep into the history and culture of the underground world where spam gets made—and along the way touches on that community’s participation in online criminal enterprises: identity theft, botnet creation, money laundering, data breaches, and much more.
”Hacktivist“ by Alyssa Milano, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
Conceptualized by famed actor Alyssa Milano, Hacktivist imagines what would happen if a couple of Jack Dorsey-types were secretly manipulating uprisings in the Middle East. With gorgeous, full-color illustrations by Marcus To, the graphic novel explores how Silicon Valley hubris and white male privilege often undermine even the best intentions, as well as well as how treacherous it is for major online service providers to collaborate with intelligence agencies. –Dave Maass
”CITIZENFOUR“ directed by Laura Poitras
Laura Poitras’ riveting new documentary about mass surveillance gives an intimate look into the motivations that guided Edward Snowden, who sacrificed his career and risked his freedom to expose mass surveillance by the NSA. CITIZENFOUR has many scenes that explore the depths of government surveillance gone awry and the high-tension unfolding of Snowden’s rendezvous with journalists in Hong Kong. –Rainey Reitman, from our full review in October
”Bulletproof SSL & TLS“ by Ivan Ristic
Ivan Ristic of SSL Labs has spent the last five years researching and writing about all aspects of the protocols being used to Encrypt the Web and keep us all safe from pervasive surveilance. This book contains the results of that work, and covers all aspects of SSL & TLS, including performance, attacks on transport layer encryption, certificates, and much much more. It’s hugely valuable for sysadmins, web developers, cryptographers, and anyone who just wants to understand what makes the secure Internet tick. –Jacob Hoffman-Andrews
”The Coming Swarm“ by Molly Sauter
With new technology comes new forms of protest. But sometimes it takes a sharp critical eye to
determine whether these protests are important forms of speech, crude vandalism, or something else entirely. In "The Coming Swarm,” Molly Sauter examines the practice of distributed denial of service attacks—frequently known as DDoS—as a tactic of political activism.
“The Piracy Crusade” by Aram Sinnreich
What playbook best matches the copyright lobby’s anti-piracy strategy? As Aram Sinnreich compellingly argues, the closest comparison is an inauspicious one: the Crusades. Sinnreich goes into depth on how peer-to-peer tech affected the industry, and walks through the history of the war on file-sharing by looking at each tactic through the lens of the famous “Five Stages of Grief.” There’s something interesting in here for veterans of the file-sharing wars and newcomers alike. The book is also available in a wide variety of formats including—appropriately—in a free BitTorrent bundle offered through Vuze.
“The Private Eye” comic book series by Brian K. Vaughn, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente
Smart and stylish speculative fiction about a future where everyone’s private data has been leaked. Citizens conduct their daily business under nyms and wearing outlandish masks, and librarians defend their patron records with fanatical force. Sold DRM-free, pay what you want. –Jacob Hoffman-Andrews
“Countdown to Zero Day” by Kim Zetter
Long before the mainstream media started talking about digital warfare in relation to a certain Hollywood movie, Wired journalist Kim Zetter kept a close watch on the weaponized malware beat. And in that story, perhaps no software looms as large as “Stuxnet,” a hyper-sophisticated virus aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear efforts. Zetter documents the exhaustively researched story of Stuxnet with the clarity and thoroughness that readers of her live coverage have come to expect.