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obfuscation

The black fabric cover and silver lettering caught my eye in Waterstones last Wednesday.

Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest (Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum) is written just like an academic dissertation, and is just over 120 pages long. The content is in two sections, one providing a collection of case studies and examples from the past 50 years, and the other discussing the ethics of deploying obfuscation techniques.
It was written by non-technical authors largely about the social and ethical issues of obfuscation, and we get only high-level descriptions of how various techniques worked in the past. That’s not to say I didn’t learn something from the book – quite the opposite.

Negatives: Where is the users’ guide? There isn’t any signposting to the tools that are readily-available, or instructions on how to the average person might use them. Instead the book, at best, outlines a strategy for designing the tools.

Positives: The content is still interesting, original and relevant, and it’s nicely presented. Some very good arguments were made for obfuscation, and I think it’s a valuable contribution to the debate around privacy.

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