Means of Control: How the Hidden Alliance of Tech and Government Is Creating a New American Surveillance State (Hardcover)

Means of Control: How the Hidden Alliance of Tech and Government Is Creating a New American Surveillance State By Byron Tau Cover Image
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You are being surveilled right now. This sweeping exposé reveals how the U.S. government allied with data brokers, tech companies, and advertisers to monitor us through the phones we carry and the devices in our home.

“A revealing . . . startling . . . timely . . . fascinating, sometimes terrifying examination of the decline of privacy in the digital age.”—Kirkus Reviews

“That evening, I was given a glimpse inside a hidden world. . . . An entirely new kind of surveillance program—one designed to track everyone.”

For the past five years—ever since a chance encounter at a dinner party—journalist Byron Tau has been piecing together a secret story: how the whole of the internet and every digital device in the world became a mechanism of intelligence, surveillance, and monitoring.

Of course, our modern world is awash in surveillance. Most of us are dimly aware of this: Ever get the sense that an ad is “following” you around the internet? But the true potential of our phones, computers, homes, credit cards, and even the tires underneath our cars to reveal our habits and behavior would astonish most citizens. All of this surveillance has produced an extraordinary amount of valuable data about every one of us. That data is for sale—and the biggest customer is the U.S. government.

In the years after 9/11, the U.S. government, working with scores of anonymous companies, many scattered across bland Northern Virginia suburbs, built a foreign and domestic surveillance apparatus of breathtaking scope—one that can peer into the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. This cottage industry of data brokers and government bureaucrats has one directive—“get everything you can”—and the result is a surreal world in which defense contractors have marketing subsidiaries and marketing companies have defense contractor subsidiaries. And the public knows virtually nothing about it.

Sobering and revelatory, Means of Control is the defining story of our dangerous grand bargain—ubiquitous cheap technology, but at what price?

About the Author

Byron Tau is an investigative and enterprise journalist who specializes in law, courts, and national security. He reports for and teaches at the Allbritton Journalism Institute, a journalism nonprofit launched in 2023 that trains and mentors early-career reporters. He previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and Politico. A native of Holliston, Massachusetts, Tau has degrees from McGill University in Montreal and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Praise For…

“[Tau] documents how, across more than two decades, our government has turned to the private sector to keep tabs on us, all while both the authorities and the companies involved do everything they can to keep Americans in the dark. . . . An in-depth account . . . Tau’s extensive research gives readers a detailed tour of the bafflingly complex ecosystem of brokers and buyers of [our] information.”—Reason

“Byron Tau has revealed the secret history of a new American surveillance state. We are all its unwitting builders, providing the raw materials from the phones we carry in our pockets and the devices we place in our homes. As Tau shows in vivid, often frightening detail, none of us consented to this arrangement. But we can hardly be surprised that corporations and governments have scooped up unfathomable amounts of information about us, since it was practically free for the taking. Means of Control is an urgent story, meticulously reported and compellingly told. . . . A testament to the singular and indispensable power of journalism to shine light in the dark and find answers to the hardest questions.”—Shane Harris, author of The Watchers

“Byron Tau’s extraordinary book recounts in engrossing detail how the U.S. government exploits massive loopholes in U.S. surveillance law to purchase in vast digital bazaars the intimate personal data that Americans unwittingly spew from their phones, cars, and computers every minute of every day. Means of Control exposes how American surveillance capitalism breeds secret government surveillance on a scale never imagined.”—Jack Goldsmith, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

“A chilling chronicle of how data collection efforts by corporate and government entities have created a ‘digital panopticon’ . . . Filled with shocking revelations and first-rate reporting, this will have readers thinking twice before they post.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Startling . . . Tau’s explanations of how surveillance techniques have evolved in the twenty-first century in response to the trauma of 9/11—and how they might yet be put to use in ordinary circumstance—are exceptionally clear and unsettling. . . . This timely book carries a crucial message about the stakes involved in government-corporate partnerships. A fascinating, sometimes terrifying examination of the decline of privacy in the digital age.”Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593443224
ISBN-10: 0593443225
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Pages: 400
Language: English

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