Every day, billions of photographs, news stories, songs, X-rays, TV shows, phone calls, and emails are being scattered around the world as sequences of zeroes and ones: bits. We can’t escape this explosion of digital information and few of us want to–the benefits are too seductive. The technology has enabled unprecedented innovation, collaboration, entertainment, and democratic participation.
But the same engineering marvels are shattering centuries-old assumptions about privacy, identity, free expression, and personal control as more and more details of our lives are captured as digital data.
Can you control who sees all that personal information about you? Can email be truly confidential, when nothing seems to be private? Shouldn’t the Internet be censored the way radio and TV are? Is it really a federal crime to download music? When you use Google or Yahoo! to search for something, how do they decide which sites to show you? Do you still have free speech in the digital world? Do you have a voice in shaping government or corporate policies about any of this?
Blown to Bits offers provocative answers to these questions and tells intriguing real-life stories. This book is a wake-up call to the human consequences of the digital explosion.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Digital Explosion: Why Is It Happening, and What Is at Stake? 1
Chapter 2: Naked in the Sunlight: Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandoned 19
Chapter 3: Ghosts in the Machine: Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents 73
Chapter 4: Needles in the Haystack: Google and Other Brokers in the Bits Bazaar 109
Chapter 5: Secret Bits: How Codes Became Unbreakable 161
Chapter 6: Balance Toppled: Who Owns the Bits? 195
Chapter 7: You Can’t Say That on the Internet: Guarding the Frontiers of Digital Expression 229
Chapter 8: Bits in the Air: Old Metaphors, New Technologies, and Free Speech 259
Conclusion: After the Explosion 295
Appendix: The Internet as System and Spirit 301