The Surveillance State

Big Data, Freedom, and You
Narrated by: Paul Rosenzweig
Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (666 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A man shoots down a drone that is flying over his private property. A retail store uses predictive data analytics to send pregnancy-related advertising to a teenager who has not told her parents about her condition. A police officer places a GPS device on a suspected criminal's car to follow him and build a case against him.

The news is full of such stories, in which new technologies lead to dilemmas that could not have been imagined just a few decades ago. The 21st century has seen remarkable technological advances, with many wonderful benefits. But with these advances come new questions about privacy, security, civil liberties, and more.

Big Data is here, which means that government and private industries are collecting massive amounts of information about each of us - information that may be used in marketing, to help solve criminal investigations, and to promote the interests of national security. Pandora's box has been opened, but in many ways the government is behind the times, relying on legislation from the 1970s to inform its stance on regulating the collection and use of this information.

Taught by Professor Rosenzweig, JD, esteemed legal expert and professorial lecturer at The George Washington University School of Law, these 24 revealing lectures tackle the tough questions about surveillance and data in the 21st century. With Professor Rosenzweig's guidance, you'll scrutinize our system of oversight for intelligence agencies, and you'll consider the ways in which the information that is collected impacts (or potentially impacts) our civil liberties.

This is your reliable source for all the facts you need to make your own reasonable choices - and take a first step toward an empowered future.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2016 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Surveillance State

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    4 out of 5 stars

Nine tenths of the way to an idea.

This course is indispensable to anyone who has a phone or uses the internet. We need to understand the ways in which the government and private companies are tracking us and to appreciate what that may mean for our future. We must also understand the competing, equally legitimate, goals at play. Any effective solution for protecting our online privacy requires a full appreciation of its implications for security. This issue is so important to modern democracies, this course should be required reading.

Except that Rosenzweig falls just short of making useful conclusions. Rosenzweig argues towards the middle of the course that government should adopt the principle that they can use private data as long as it doesn't do harm. He could have spent the rest of the course explaining exactly what he means by that. My ability to trust the government with such powerful data would rest, in fact, on my confidence that it is possible to make such a distinction and the government is capable of making it. I would like to know much more about this principle to not cause harm and whether there is any potential practical application of it. The course fell short of answering that question.

The course also highlighted to me how inappropriate the term "privacy" is to what is at stake. "Privacy" implies the ability to act without the discomfort of others watching. So, for example, if I'm dancing naked at home and a neighbours watches me through my window, this violation of my privacy has two negative consequences. The first is that I am embarrassed. The second is that I lose my ability to do as I like without worrying about what other people will think.

Are these the consequences we worry about when we talk about online privacy from government and companies? In some examples, yes. The potential that someone might publish my profile on OkCupid might fall in this category, but for most government actions, I would argue it's a different beast. Many people, like myself, are not overly concerned about someone in the NSA judging me for looking at embarrassing websites or the secrets I share in private messages with friends. I worry about them using this information to destroy my life.

The example of the Stasi in East Germany shows that the consequence of government knowing too much about citizens is that it gives them the power to selectively incriminate and persecute people the government—or people in government—do not like. They used private information to make people lose their jobs and relationships as a way to punish them without publicly doing anything.

Imagine someone in the NSA with political aspirations using information to destroy the credibility of all opponents and to rise to power. The harm at play here is not one of emotional well-being and so "privacy" seems a wholly inadequate metaphor for the issue at play.

What would be a better word? Perhaps "security": the personal security from targeted information-based persecution. Using that word would lead, perhaps, to a more productive debate, in which what we are balancing is one kind of security against another, rather than security vs. an emotional state.

28 people found this helpful

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Excellent survey of important issues.

Prof R ably presents a thoughtful canvas of important issues concerning surveillance goals and technology in the hands of government and private people and corporations. He comes from a political background that I don't share and I found myself at odds a few times with some his opinions but they were always presented as such and never interfered with presentation of the subject matter. This is a well done survey of information and ideas to which all of us should pay serious attention.

8 people found this helpful

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Good discussion of surveillance and privacy

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Paul Rosenzweig?

If you are interested in studying the history and techniques of surveillance and the risks they pose to individual privacy you should love this course. For me personally, at the conclusion of the course I was left with a mixed impression. I think I learned that I was much more interested in how technological advances are leading to our sense of privacy being eroded. vs. the discussion on general government surveillance. So the first half of the course just did not capture my attention and seemed uninteresting but this was more of a reflection on my own interests than on the professor's presentation. The most interesting discussions in these lectures to me seemed to have been rehashes of what was discussed in the “Thinking about Cybersecurity: From Cyber Crime to Cyber Warfare” course.

The second half of the course really picked up---specifically the lectures that discussed legal cases involving new technology and the implications for privacy and security. It is clear that the courts are unwilling to make blanket decisions on some of these hot-button items and would prefer for societal views to evolve and crystallize. Really fascinating stuff. Lectures 12, 14, 17-21 were tops.

Overall I think the Professor did a good job of illuminating the fact that these topics remain relevant in today's world and how the general population (and the courts) all have different views on where the line between privacy and security should be drawn. He is extremely knowledgeable in this space and I absolutely loved his Cybersecurity course.

10 people found this helpful

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Absurdly good! Topical, interesting, important.

And the profession is passionate about his topic.

Many courses I am ready to be done. With this course I could have listened to more. I am likely to re-listen to this one.

Some say privacy is this generation's liberty. A right the US has trampled in both the commercial and private spheres. Whether this is true or not, it is important that informed citizens begin to educate themselves about the issues and begin to discuss and dissect relevant arguments.

The inevitability of dronage, the ability of foreign governments to identify, track and target groups of domestic citizens, the ability of domestic governments to do the same, the inevitability of "smart" computer algorithms to do the same, etc.,etc. There is so much here to absorb and discuss. One of the most worthwhile audiobooks I have purchased. Excellent presentation. Excellent discussion. Highly recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking course

This is one of the big issues that all humans should care and be informed about. For the most part the course is even handed but there is a clear legal and liberal bent to the teacher. However, it does not diminish the value or reason to engage in this course. Kudos to the great courses for offering this course.

2 people found this helpful

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Did Not Age Well

His faith in the ability of government to manage its own temptations to misuse and abuse surveillance powers seems breathtakingly naive in light of recent events.

4 people found this helpful

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No understanding of the technology and one-sided

Unfortunately the lecturer doesn't understand the technical aspects and just uses buzzwords to mask that. The legal side however is not bad.
In addition, it's a pity how one-sided the lectures are. If seems that the US does everything right in terms of surveillance and the rest of the world doesn't know what they're doing. It's a pity how the lecturer doesn't even try to understand alternative approaches to privacy and only has this very naive and US-centric world view. There's e.g. Also different reasons to why European data protection is different than only East Germany's Stasi past...
Topic is very interesting, just a pity about the lecturer.

24 people found this helpful

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Great course -- very timely

Great course -- very timely. Recommended to all interested in the current state of security and surveillance

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  • KR
  • 07-27-17

Seriously though, it's a great lecture series

Pronounces 'robots' as 'ro-butts' -- 5/5 would recommend if you're into butts and the Internet

2 people found this helpful

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Unbiased

This is the first course oriented book which I have read. I wasn't really sure if this format would keep me engaged as I was concerned it might be overly dry and academic. I'm always happy to be proven wrong by a great book. What I liked most about this book is that the lectures are presented in an equal and unbiased form. The author is not opinionated about if there is too much or too little surveillance, instead he explains through real and fictional examples how both could potentially be viewed as true. I've read a lot about surveillance and the laws around it, and I still learned a many things from this book. The author provides an eye opening history of surveillance back as far as the second world war when technology was considered immature to what we have today. It became quickly evident that far reaching and obtrusive surveillance can be accomplished by people without the benefit of technology. Did you know that only one of the two common methods of unlocking your phone, password and finger print, is protected by law? Do you think that the speed at which government operates is fast enough to keep up to the rate at which technology is changing surveillance? This is truly a great book and I would recommend it to everyone. At the end of this book you will really be considering the age old question of who is watching the watchers?

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  • Mr C T Walsh
  • 12-31-16

Informative and Balanced

A little biased towards the American legal/moral standpoint (I'm guessing written largely with an American audience in mind). The author does make an effort to discuss these concepts against the background of European laws too. Either way this was informative and thought provoking and well worth a listen.

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  • Peter White
  • 07-08-19

Good, but very biased towards US law

This is a pretty good, interesting series of lectures. It's got two flaws for me. Firstly, it is legally focussed, with very sketchy technical background. Secondly, it is very US centric. If that's what you want though, a very good introduction.

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  • Mike M
  • 08-15-17

The age of Big Brother

Comprehensive introduction into big data and technology are having an increasing impact upon all of our lives.

If you value your freedom, knowledge of the so titled Surveillance State is important to understand how electronic data does, can and will impact on all our lives and what you can do to protect yourself from its most pernicious implications.

The title would suggest that it's our governments who are most interested in our data 'footprints', but increasingly we willingly or perhaps unknowingly submit ever more revealing and intimate details of how we conduct our lives to globalised, private 'actors'.

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  • Terje
  • 04-23-17

Very interesting class.

This is a well done and researched class, and so much is hiding in plain sight. This is an easy listening class.

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  • Amol
  • 08-27-16

Very informative

Very informative. You are not alone in this world of technology, someone is watching or listening to you in some way!