October DPL Non-Fiction Book Club
October 27, 2020
Book: None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age by Lawrence Cappello
You can hardly pass through customs at an airport today without having your picture taken and your fingertips scanned, that information then stored in an archive you’ll never see. Nor can you use your home’s smart technology without wondering what, exactly, that technology might do with all you’ve shared with it: shopping habits, security decisions, media choices. Every day, Americans surrender their private information to entities that claim to have their best interests in mind, in exchange for a promise of safety or convenience. This trade-off has long been taken for granted, but the extent of its nefariousness has recently become much clearer. As Lawrence Cappello’s None of Your Damn Business reveals, the problem is not so much that data will be used in ways we don’t want, but rather how willing we have been to have our information used, abused, and sold right back to us.
In this startling book, Cappello shows that this state of affairs was not the inevitable by-product of technological progress. He targets key moments from the past 130 years of US history when privacy was central to battles over journalistic freedom, national security, surveillance, big data, and reproductive rights. As he makes dismayingly clear, Americans have had numerous opportunities to protect the public good while simultaneously safeguarding our information, and we’ve squandered them every time. The wide range of the debates and incidents presented here shows that, despite America’s endless rhetoric of individual freedom, we actually have some of the weakest privacy protections in the developed world. None of Your Damn Business is a rich and provocative survey of an alarming topic that grows only more relevant with each fresh outrage of trust betrayed.