Book review: This Machine Kills Secrets

By , January 21, 2013

This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information
by Andy Greenberg

This Machine Kills Secrets charts the rise and fall of Wikileaks. The word “Wikileaks” is no longer the boogeyman it once was. The current public debate about online privacy might indicate that the philosophical roots behind Wikileaks has gained traction with the general populace.  This book is a history of said philosophy. The ideological manifestation of this philosophy is a belief in the right to privacy. The pragmatic manifestation of this philosophy is encryption, or the ability to scramble data so only you and those you choose can unscramble it. Those ideologically motivated enough to take pragmatic action wrote encryption software.  Of course, encryption and related technologies can be used for anonymous whistle-blowing too. The people who wrote encryption software are either freedom fighters or paranoid wackjobs depending on your perspective. Pick your poison. It makes for great reading. It also makes for strange bedfellows. I was left wondering what gun nuts in Idaho think of Julian Assange. Greenberg works in a biography of Assange, a history of digital encryption, a (sort of) history of hacker collective Anonymous, and how this all led to a quiet revolution in Iceland. I couldn’t put it down.

If this book tickles your fancy, the author recently participated in an “ask me anything”  session on Reddit where he answered user questions in depth and revealed more personal opinions about Wikileaks. Check it, and his book, out.

- Bryan

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