Monday, January 12, 2009

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother



I have just finished reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very insightful, although it appears to be set a little into the future (10 or 15 years), many of the technologies covered in the book could exist today! Over the last few years I've been watching with interest the "security theater" happening in Britain. I have enjoyed thinking about how such systems would fail and how people could easily bypass a system - further enhancing my view that these precautions are there for show and not increased security. This is what the protagonist in this book does all the time to fight his war against his own freedom.

When questioned about the increased restrictions; CCTV; tracking; RFIDs; and ID cards people always seem to take the point of view; "if you have nothing to hide, why worry?". I've always had a little bit of difficulty answering this question other than it's the attitude which allows the powers that be to make things worse with even more 'security'; and then point out a few areas where they fail. This book provides an answer to these by example.

It reminded me of a thought I had during the Christmas Lectures by Professor Chris Bishop, in one of the lectures he talked about using RFID technology to pay for items and for your fridge to acknowledge the expiration date of food contained within. As a 'bonus', the RFID could also store the components of the packaging for efficient recycling after being thrown out. My take on this was the superstore tracking you with the item knowing exactly when you picked the item up, from where and how long it spent in your basket - along with the rest of your items - and how you paid for it. The superstore would have an incredible amount of information about you which they could mine. Then when the packaging is thrown out, the recycling agency could have enough information to know exactly who threw said packaging out - and typical of Britain, this could be a taxable service, pay as you throw RFID style. Quite quickly you could obtain and track the eating habits of thousands of Britons! I have nothing to hide about my eating habits - but I certainly wouldn't want this information stored about my household.

I haven't read Orwell's 1984, but I bought 1984 along with Little Brother on Amazon, it is next on my reading list!

In summary I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it!

Buy Little Brother on Amazon

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