Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: "Googling Security: How Much Does Google Know About You?" by Greg Conti

I just reviewed "Googling Security: How Much Does Google Know About You?" by Greg Conti and gave it 3 out of 5 Amazon stars. Here is the review, also posted here:

Fails to Scare A Paranoid

I think the book has good information and I enjoyed reading it. However, as I was reading the book, I developed an impression that this was a book meant to scare the reader into some kinda behavior change. In other words, I felt that the book was written to highlight the risks, to explain why given somebody so much information about your online activities is a risky, bad thing and that you should do something differently.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed the book, I think this is where it fails. As somebody who works in security, I consider myself to be pretty paranoid, but the book failed even to scare me! After reading it, I did not become afraid of Google at all. The author highlights some of the presumed risks, but he fails to present scenarios that make the dangers come alive; instead, he makes vague statements ("you know, it can be pretty bad"). So he ends up with a “non-scary Scary Tale.”

For example, when talking about ads, and especially targeted ads, the book suggests that such consumer profiling is scary, but doesn't explain how and why.

To conclude: the book presents a good story of how much Google knows about you, but my impression was that the risks are not made to be scary enough and few resulting behavior changes are suggested. It goes a little like this at time: “OMG, you CAN be hit by the car if you cross the street!” A couple of times while reading it I thought that “you have no privacy, get over it” trumps what's written in the book...

Dr Anton Chuvakin