Posted in Reviews

Review: Data Love by Roberto Simanowski

Data Love cover.png

Title: Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies

Author: Roberto Simanowski

Genre: Nonfiction, technology

Intelligence services, government administrations, businesses, and a growing majority of the population are hooked on the idea that big data can reveal patterns and correlations in everyday life. Initiated by software engineers and carried out through algorithms, big data has sparked a silent revolution. But algorithmic analysis and data mining are not simply byproducts of media development or the logical consequences of computation. They are the radicalization of the Enlightenment’s quest for knowledge and progress. Data Love argues that the “cold civil war” of big data is taking place not between citizens or the citizen and government but within each one of us.
Roberto Simanowski elaborates on the changes data love have brought to the human condition while exploring the entanglements of those who—be it out of stinginess, convenience, ignorance, narcissism, or passion—contribute to the amassing of evermore data about their lives, leading to the statistical evaluation and individual profiling of their selves. Writing from a philosophical standpoint, Simanowski illustrates the social implications of technological development and retrieves the concepts, events, and cultural artifacts of past centuries to help decode the programming of our present.

Rating: 3/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This book is a very philosophical take on the problem of privacy during the Internet age. It gets a bit too philosophical at times, to the point where I was wondering if maybe I’m not quite qualified enough to understand it.

The book is full of predictions about the future of technology and how all the data that big tech companies have about their users is going to impact the lives of said users. There are plenty of examples like Google, Facebook and Snapchat that have users worldwide, which makes their impact huge. But the book was originally published in Germany, so the author uses quite a few German examples and sometimes seems too focused on Germany.

I agree with the author that people should be better educated on what actually happens with all the information they put online. The things you write and the pictures you post can affect your life in ways you never expected. The problem is, you can’t always predict exactly what can be used against you. Sometimes I felt like the author’s predictions bordered on paranoid, but then I would read a quote like this and be like ‘Ok, maybe he’s right’:

This became clearer most recently when Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt publicly declared in 2009, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” and threatened in 2010, “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”

The idea that you should never do anything you don’t want other people to know about is ridiculous – but this book is a good warning about the dangers of oversharing. After all, if nobody knows about it, it can’t be used against you.


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