Virtual Shadows

Karen Lawrence Oqvist

Publisher BCS
ISBN 978-1-906124-09-0
RRP £14.95
Reviewed by Nick Dunn
Score 9 out of 10

Virtual Shadows: Your Privacy in the Information Society This book is as suitable for a general audience as much as information security or web professionals and is written in a very readable style. We are introduced to the concepts behind social networking and web 2.0 and their impact on our privacy and everyday lives. In this respect the author is as concerned with social science as much as computer science.

We start with an explanation of social networking, blogs and web 2.0. This reflects the author's main interests, devoting most of its pages to blogging, rather than social networking sites.

The book then moves on to the connections between an individual's online life and physical life discussing the impact that blog and social network postings can have on career and reputation both now and many years from now.

We are reminded that once we place information in the public domain it remains there permanently. As it's possible for someone's opinions as a 15-year-old to have drastically changed by the time they reach adulthood, the presence of a permanent reminder on the web can cause embarrassment in later life.

Adults are not immune to this either with online pictures of drunken parties, etc. having potentially serious effects on an individual's employment prospects.

Good advice is given on maintaining some separation between work colleagues, online friends and real-life friends and limiting information available to different types of Facebook friend.

There is a discussion of children's activities online with sound advice on how to avoid and deal with cyber-bullying although it's debatable how many older children would be prepared to share their passwords and browsing history with their parents.

The final section is a sobering discussion of recent trends in information gathering and usage which highlights both the potential risks and possible advantages in the amount and type of information being gathered and used by governments and private entities.

In general the book is very readable and provides a balanced view of the issues. The discussions of how and why we willingly share our data and the way it gets used are well informed and interesting.

Further information: BCS books

February 2009