'This book will change the way you think about today's new media technologies' - Daniel J. Solove, author of "The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age". Whether you're purchasing groceries with your Safeway 'club card' or casting a vote on "American Idol", those data are being collected. From Amazon to iTunes, smart phones to GPS devices, Google to TiVo - all of these products and services give us an expansive sense of choice, access, and participation. Mark Andrejevic shows, however, that these continuously evolving new technologies have also been employed as modes of surveillance and control, most disturbingly exemplified by revelations about the NSA's secret monitoring of our phone calls, e-mails, and internet searches. Many contend that our proliferating interactive media empower individuals and democratize society. But, Andrejevic asks, at what cost? In "iSpy", he reveals that these and other highly advertised benefits are accompanied by hidden risks and potential threats that we all tend to ignore.
His book, providing the first sustained critique of a concept that has been a talking point for twenty years, debunks the false promises of the digital revolution still touted by the popular media while seeking to rehabilitate, rather than simply write off, the potentially democratic uses of interactive media. Andrejevic opens up the world of digital rights management and the data trail each of us leaves - data about our locations, preferences, or life events that are already put to use in various economic, political, and social contexts. He notes that, while citizens are becoming increasingly transparent to private and public monitoring agencies, they themselves are unable to access the information gathered about them - or know whether it's even correct. (The watchmen, it seems, don't want to be watched.) He also considers the appropriation of consumer marketing for political campaigns in targeting voters and examines the implications of the Internet for the so-called War on Terror. In "iSpy", Andrejevic poses real challenges for our digital future.
Amazingly detailed, compellingly readable, it warns that we need to temper our enthusiasm for these technologies with a better understanding of the threats they pose - to be able to distinguish between interactivity as centralized control and as collaborative participation.