Internet Privacy and a Hacker’s Story @ BYOB Party in July 2016 (Part 1)

There have been nine BYOB Parties so far and many books have been discussed.

The CircleThe BYOB Party in July this year started with the theme of privacy and the lack of it in this internet obsessed world. Piya Bose read The Circle by Dave Eggers , a book about  a young woman called Mae Holland who works at a powerful internet company. The story explores the helplessness of individuals in a surveillance reality and parallels are made to the world’s most powerful internet companies today. The Circle is a hi-tech lavish campus with open plan office spaces, towering glass facilities, dorms, etc. But when Mae’s life takes a turn with a personal tragedy, she realizes that transparency could be a dangerous game to play. At The Circle, all employees wear cameras; their lives are transparent and for all to see. Trading her private life had an awful price for Mae. Piya liked the simple and engaging style in which the book was written and the moment she finished with the book, she rechecked her privacy settings on facebook.

“It’s not just famous people who are trolled,” she said.  The book reminds you of 1984 by George Orwell, considering that it deals with problems of our times and looks into the future as well. Comparisons were made with a new book called The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese which deals with the true life story of a motel owner who builds an observation platform to spy on the people who visit his motel.

Ghosts in the WiresAkshay also spoke on the same theme of privacy issues, this time from a hacker’s perspective.  Ghost in the Wires by  Kevin Mitnick and Steve Wozniak is an autobiography of the most wanted hacker on earth. So how does a curious child turn into a hacker? He breaks simple codes so that he can travel on buses for free and hacks into drive-through telecom systems. What starts as pranks leads him to juvenile home and prison.

He ends up bypassing security systems of organizations like Motorola, Sun Microsystems, etc but his interest is more benign and less malicious. Kevin Mitnick now works as a security expert. His unbelievable story led to major changes in how security measures were implemented. So we get two completely different perspectives of privacy and its evils.

More books in Part 2.

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