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Book review: "No place to hide" by Glenn Greenwald

I just finished reading the book “No Place to Hide“, by the journalist Glenn Greenwald. The book talks about the revelations from Edward Snowden on the actions taken by the NSA, as well as about their implications. It is not the  book you can’t take your hands off, but it is certainly a worthy read and conveys a very well elaborated message.

The book largely spans three topics:

  • The process of working with Edward Snowden, interacting with him securely, interviewing him, exercising all the necessary op-sec that he insisted on, and all related “technical-spy” actions. As a security specialist, this is the part I liked the most, but it is the smallest one.

  • The actual contents of Snowden’s revelations (of what was already disclosed). Glenn discusses the list of the NSA’s alleged wrongdoings, as revealed in the Snowden docs. This part is interesting for anyone who is interested in the leak, yet the book does not seem to teach more than what was already published by the news outlets.

  • The political and social implications. This is the lion’s share of the book; the implications of a surveillance state, why it is wrong, and why the author thinks we should oppose it by all means. It seems to me as the book was largely written for the people who hear about the Snowden revelations and ask “so what?”

Glenn’s writing is excellent; very clear and concise. He conveys a seemingly simple message in a thick book and yet somehow never really repeats himself.

Glenn, while being very intelligent and conversant with the topic, is extremely opinionated. He has a firm and clear message of opposition to wholesale surveillance and this book is all about getting this message across. The book does not present a fair debate, and it brings up counter opinions just to dismiss them in an instant. The book therefore does not present a debate, but presents a very well educated opinion and backs it up excellently with facts and common sense.

As a fan of privacy, the book was partially preaching to the converted. I believe most readers hold opinions that do not deviate much from those of the author. Nevertheless, even if you agree with much of what Glenn says from the start, the way he presents his arguments is so clear and convincing, that you will find reading the book helpful for understanding your own thoughts better, as well as be able to explain those thoughts to others.

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