What Is EFF Reading? Books, Movies, and TV Shows of 2015
What books, TV shows, and movies helped shaped the way EFF staff were thinking about cutting edge issues this year? Each December we like to look back at some of the new and noteworthy media we took in. We don't endorse all the arguments you'll find in them, but we think they at least add something valuable to the discussion. Also, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list—more of a conversation starter.
Some notes about this list: it's presented in alphabetical order by author's last name, and most links contain our Amazon affiliate code, which means EFF will receive a portion of purchases made through this page. Books reviewed by Cory Doctorow point to his original review. Descriptions are by Parker Higgins except where otherwise specified.
License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle
James Bond may only live twice in the movies, but in the imaginations of his readers he can live a thousand different times—and tell as many different stories. In Canada, where the novels describing his adventures entered the public domain this January, that's exactly what's happened. Under the editorship of established authors Madeline Ashby and David Nickle, a diverse collection of writers have reimagined the famous secret agent and his escapades in 19 new stories.
The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle, by Peter Baldwin
Exhaustively researched and heavily cited, The Copyright Wars could be the definitive history of the diverging schools of thought on what copyright should be on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. As the title promises, the book traces centuries of history and the twists and turns in policy that led us to where we are now—and applies that background to the question of where we might end up in the future.
Obfuscation, by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum
This slim volume tackles the idea of "obfuscation" in the context of privacy, and unearths a surprisingly rich history of efforts to obscure or camouflage oneself or one's data from observation or recognition. Unlike the mathematical certainty of cryptographic tech, obfuscation can be fuzzy around the edges—and Brunton and Nissenbaum do an expert job of exploring what that means, why it matters, and when it works.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
Day's memoir is a moving and often hilarious account of the life of a woman who found herself on the Internet, and then found a career there too. The final chapter, on online harassment, is especially trenchant. –Cory Doctorow
Pwning Tomorrow: Stories from the Electronic Frontier
Our very first speculative fiction anthology, Pwning Tomorrow brings together more than 20 authors—from up-and-coming superstars to well-established heavyweights—with stories about the wonders and perils of technology. The whole collection is available for download under a Creative Commons license, and contributions to support our work are optional (and appreciated)!
Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 1, by Warren Ellis and illustrator Darick Robertson
Long before live-blogging and Google Glass, writer Warren Ellis and illustrator Darick Robertson predicted the future of journalism in this comic book about the drug-addled, politically cynical, "Bowel Disruptor" gun-waving columnist Spider Jerusalem, his sidekicks, and two-headed cat. This summer, Vertigo re-released the first 21 issues of this cyberpunk classic in a gorgeous, hardbound volume. —Dave Maass
The Peripheral, by William Gibson
Gibson's first futuristic science fiction novel written this century does not disappoint. A story of a terrifying surveillance future from the writer who gave us the term "cyberspace." –Cory Doctorow
Internet Law: Cases and Problems, Fifth Edition, by James Grimmelmann
Not everybody thinks a casebook on the thorny problems of Internet law is, say, a good read to bring to the beach. But if any book meets that description, it's Internet Law, updated this year in its fifth edition and packed thicker than ever with the important caselaw that shapes our rights online. And true to its forward-thinking subject matter, the book is available for download at a suggested price.
Secret Codes & Number Games: Cryptographic Projects & Number Games for Children Ages 5-16, by Dev Gualtieri
An endlessly delightful set of games, puzzles and head-scratchers that teach the basics of crypto while they challenge your creativity. –Cory Doctorow
The Internet of Garbage, by Sarah Jeong
In just under a hundred pages, Sarah Jeong dismantles the problem of Internet harassment and sets out a new framework to understand it—and actually do something about it. For people who use the Internet, this book gives insight into how the platforms we use every day are failing us. For people who make those platforms, this book gives insight into how to make things better. (Note: Jeong formerly interned at EFF and occasionally collaborates with the author of this review.)
Let's be blunt: no TV show about computers ever gets the technical details right. But Mr. Robot gets awfully close, as it describes the story of "hacker" extraordinaire Elliot Alderson and a gang of his colleagues as they descend into the more ethically questionable, violent, and illegal side of the business.
The Real Cyber War: The Political Economy of Internet Freedom, by Shawn Powers and Michael Jablonski
This academic title delves into the ways in which states utilize digital networks for geopolitical purposes, as well as how, with respect to the Internet, US government policies are in line with broader geo-political goals. –Jillian York
Inside the Machine, by Megan Prelinger
Historian and archivist Megan Prelinger takes us on a visual tour of early computer and electronic advertising and marketing materials. The story of how we got from there to here is on the page for you to see, hidden in the disposable sales pitches of a bygone era. –Cory Doctorow
So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson
As Internet trolls and online harassment became mainstream concerns in 2015, Jon Ronson explored how casual online ridicule en masse can become societal cruelty. By humanizing figures such as Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone, Ronson realizes that people, including himself, need to think twice before piling onto viral public shaming. –Dave Maass
Waiting, by Noura Ghazi Safadi
Waiting was written by Syrian human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi Safadi to her husband Bassel Khartabil, a free culture activist who's been in prison since 2012 and disappeared earlier this year. The English translation was written by Bassel himself—Noura brought in sections for him to translate when she visited him in prison. –Elliot Harmon
Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, by Bruce Schneier
"Government surveillance has gone from collecting data on as few people as necessary to collecting it on as many as possible." No one has beat the drum on privacy and surveillance as long or as well as EFF board member Bruce Schneier, and his latest is essential reading. –Cory Doctorow
Black Candies #3 - Surveillance
Eleven authors contributed stories on surveillance and secrecy for the third issue of Black Candies: A Journal of Literary Horror from the San Diego-based writers' collective So Say We All. But the book isn't just worth its words; the paranoia-inspiring art will also keep you up at night worrying about who's watching while you sleep. –Dave Maass
The Red Web, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
In 2012, Russia's Internet was largely unrestricted. It was a haven for independent journalism and political debate. Internet surveillance and censorship were rudimentary. Since then, a series of legal and technical measures have gutted the RuNet. Soldatov and Borogan team up to describe this sudden turnaround in a book that's a little bit of a detective story and a little bit of a spy thriller. If you like interviews with former KGB agents, plucky journalists and activists, or you just want get a better view of what's happened to Russia's Internet under Putin, you should pick up this book. –Eva Galperin
The 24th edition in the James Bond film franchise sees 007 and the entire MI6 agency fighting the creation of "Nine Eyes," a global signals intelligence network uniting intelligence agencies around the world. Spectre, an international criminal syndicate to whom the leader of British intelligence is beholden, stages a false flag terror attack in South Africa to induce it to accept the creation of the network, before Bond escapes torture at the hands of a long-lost adopted brother and races off into London traffic in a vintage Aston Martin. –Shahid Buttar
In the latest installment in the Terminator franchise, dueling robots are sent back in time to shepherd Sarah Connor (whose eventual child, John Connor, will in the future lead human resistance against Skynet). Sarah, lover-from-the-future Kyle Reese, and friendly Terminator "Pops" race against a fictional Silicon Valley corporation whose aspirations for data fusion across consumer devices threatens to unleash a self-aware Skynet and resulting nuclear holocaust. –Shahid Buttar
The Affinities, by Robert Charles Wilson
Wilson, a Hugo-winning science fiction author, tells the story of a world transformed by social networks governed by secret algorithms that become brawling secret societies. It's a backhanded, dystopian critique of everything from Big Data to corporate social media. –Cory Doctorow
Secret Coders, by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
A middle-grades graphic novel that's delves into an exciting mystery while elucidating the core principles of programming. –Cory Doctorow