Home Reviews Entertainmnent Wide Open Privacy - a review

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Two of AVG's senior execs give advice on how to manage privacy in the digital age.

The book was originally published in November 2012, although iTWire only received a copy of this book in March. We have been mulling over how best to treat the material ever since.

The book "Wide Open Privacy: Strategies for the Digital Life" by AVG's (now ex-) CEO J.R. Smith and Chief Policy Officer Siobhan MacDermott has a lot going for it, and (unfortunately) a lot of negatives too. So, let's get those negatives out of the way first.

Firstly, the book was crying (nay, screaming) out for two additional contributors - a good editor and an even better layout stylist. The content is somewhat flabby and repetitive, the layout unfortunately is BORING. There is plenty of content that could have been assisted by illustrations, diagrams, lists; it would have benefitted even more from some variety in the presentation. Instead it looks more like a student essay.

Secondly, the authors seemed unsure who their audience ought to be. Although (generally) attempting to appeal to the digital non-native; the delivery quickly excludes this audience. There are also errors in specifics of technology, but given the audience, these are not important.

So, what did we like? Actually, quite a lot.

Written in a chatty style, we are taken on something of a hay-ride through the basics of privacy and the differences between the US and European lawmaker's views of privacy ("The EU regards e-commerce providers as inevitably predatory. The US sees them as capable of being predatory.").

We also peek over the shoulders of web-based communicators and observe how easy it is to load simple communications with additional meanings quite different to those intended by the sender. The authors remind us of the research of Albert Mehrabian (he of the 55% body language, 38% tone-of-voice, 7% content) who described how much we 'like' the feelings being communicated by someone. As they say, no wonder we frequently miss-interpret the tone of a message when all we have are the words in a chat screen - we're missing 93% of the 'feelings.'

Those shoulders over which we peek also support a great many chips and with this in mind, Smith and MacDermott remind us of the tale of "Dog Poop Girl" in Korea where a girl who offends the morals of those around her is subjected to a nation-wide outing ('doxing' might be a more modern term) in a frenzy of moralistic pride.

Hell hath no fury like the anonymous poster.


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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.