Book Review: The Post-Snowden Era – Mass Surveillance and Privacy in New Zealand, by Kathleen M. Kuehn

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_post-snowden_era.jpgBWB texts are fantastic short books written by specialists in the field. They provide good background to topical events, and it is particularly pleasurable to read books about New Zealand or written by New Zealand authors. As short books (and accordingly priced) they are accessible and very consumable. The Post-Snowden Era provides a brilliant hit of ethics, privacy and surveillance all in one tidy book.

Kathleen Kuehn is a lecturer in media studies with an interest in surveillance. She notes that we are told that the price of security is surveillance, but it isn’t quite the full story. Surveillance in the traditional sense has changed a lot, and with public/ private partnerships strongly in force, we have become complicit in our monitoring. With much of our ability to be monitored in the hands of commercial interests, traditional methods of controlling unwanted behaviour have been replaced by the free market.

Prior to reading this book I always thought that electronic surveillance sought to read emails or listen in to phone calls. It does that, but it is also the patterns created by our activities online – the combination of our shopping habits, social media activities and online searches that produce metadata. The metadata – the times we are online, who we call frequently or how we purchase items can be more revealing than the information in our emails. With most adults active digital users, each swipe of the Fly Buys Card, distances logged on Fit Bits and the location of our tweets enable analysts a comprehensive picture of our lives.

I really appreciated the opportunity to understand modern surveillance and Kathleen Kuehn has produced a very well written overview. I was quite startled by the extent of surveillance and feel much better informed on the issues raised as a result. The book is also well referenced and this provides an opportunity to dig deeper on the subject. A fascinating read.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford

The Post-Snowden Era – Mass Surveillance and Privacy in New Zealand
by Kathleen M. Kuehn
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN 9780908321070

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