Permanent Record – A Review

Permanent Record
by Edward Snowden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recently I, like the world, have been thinking a lot about online privacy. My gadgets-loving husband owns both Google Home and Amazon Echo. He encouraged me to back up all my photos on Google Photos. Our TV is connected to the internet and during some paranoid moments, I have wondered if the TV was watching us just as we were watching it. I am on all social media platforms – but I was more worried about computers reading between the lines and knowing my location than the content I actually put out for my friends to look at. But I cannot imagine a world where I don’t use the TV or Google Photos or Social Media.

So when I picked up this book, I did so under the pretence of learning to be safe online. But the truth is I wanted to learn the steps I can take that makes it okay to use the gadgets. In other words, it is okay if someone in the NSA is reading this review and watching me mouth the words as I type it but how do I make sure that them having this data doesn’t harm me. There lies the problem.

I have become so dependent on the comfort that all these platforms give by invading my privacy that I didn’t for a second think of it as a violation of my fundamental rights.

Unlike what I expected, this book wasn’t more groundbreaking revelation about the US surveillance program or 10 Ways to be Safe on the Internet. This was a story about a boy who grew up with computers in a time when the internet was free. Free of government interference, free of corporate greed, and full of people seeking a connection with people all over the world. It’s the story of a patriotic man who very quickly understood that serving the government and serving the country are not one and the same.

Edward Snowden gives us a detailed account of his life to show us why he did what he did. He talks about how he joined the IC to serve the country post 9/11 and about the feeling of betrayal he felt when he discovered how the tools and programs he built for the US government were being used. He talks about how he went about stealing the files that later shocked the world. And he talks about how he felt when he put his affairs in order and said goodbye to life as he knew it for the last time.

This is a deeply moving, well-written memoir about a brave man who also happened to be smart. It gives me hope to know that people like him exist. And yes, he has taught me to value my privacy, which is the first step.

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