Review Essay

Public and Private Eyes

Surveillance in the Digital Age

In This Review

We Know All About You: The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America
We Know All About You: The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America
By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Oxford University Press, 2017, 290 pp. Purchase

In 2013, after the National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released thousands of top-secret documents, the U.S. government scrambled to justify its far-reaching surveillance programs. In an effort to make these data-collection programs more transparent and legitimate, the Obama administration established a special review group, revived a dormant privacy oversight board, and issued an executive order pledging to respect the privacy rights of noncitizens abroad. U.S. technology and telecommunications companies—whose complicity Snowden’s documents had exposed—moved into a defensive crouch. In order to maintain their international customer base, they sought to explain away their past cooperation and distanced themselves from the government. In 2015, the U.S. Congress entered the fray, reining in the so-called telephony metadata program, the NSA’s bulk collection of the phone numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, which can be used to draw a map of a person’s associations. 

The British, with

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