The Silicon Jungle: A Novel of Deception, Power, and Internet Intrigue

The Silicon Jungle: A Novel of Deception, Power, and Internet Intrigue

by Shumeet Baluja
     
 

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What happens when a naive intern is granted unfettered access to people's most private thoughts and actions? Young Stephen Thorpe lands a coveted internship at Ubatoo, an Internet empire that provides its users with popular online services, from a search engine and shopping to e-mail and social networking. When Stephen's boss asks him to work on a project with the

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Overview

What happens when a naive intern is granted unfettered access to people's most private thoughts and actions? Young Stephen Thorpe lands a coveted internship at Ubatoo, an Internet empire that provides its users with popular online services, from a search engine and shopping to e-mail and social networking. When Stephen's boss asks him to work on a project with the American Coalition for Civil Liberties, Stephen innocently obliges, believing he is mining Ubatoo's vast databases to protect the ever-growing number of people unfairly targeted in the name of national security. But nothing is as it seems. Suspicious individuals--do-gooders, voyeurs, government agents, and radicals--surface, doing all they can to access the mass of desires and vulnerabilities gleaned from scouring Ubatoo's wealth of intimate information. Entry into Ubatoo's vaults of personal data need not require technical wizardry--simply knowing how to manipulate a well-intentioned intern may be enough.

Set in today's cutting-edge data mining industry, The Silicon Jungle is a cautionary tale of data mining's promise and peril, and how others can use our online activities for political and personal gain just as easily as for marketing and humanitarian purposes. A timely thriller, The Silicon Jungle raises serious ethical questions about today's technological innovations and how our most confidential activities and minute details can be routinely pieced together into rich profiles that reveal our habits, goals, and secret desires--all ready to be exploited in ways beyond our wildest imaginations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Baluja's clever, cynical debut explores the frightening possibilities of data mining—using computers to access stored data in order to determine people's tastes and predict future behavior. Stephen Thorpe, an intern at computer giant Ubatoo, just wants to impress his boss by developing a list of traits by which to identify potential terrorists. Stephen's lover, Molly Byrne, just wants to finish her grad school thesis by building a Web page on which Islamic extremists can vent (or modify, with her coaxing) their rage. But when Stephen and Molly are set free on their computers without supervision, their curiosity leads them to create dangerous instruments. Stephen's list, for example, proves a valuable recruiting tool for terrorists. A nod to Upton Sinclair's muckraking The Jungle, which scared its readers into regulating the meat-packing industry, this lively if depressing novel suggests that computer snooping is too seductive to control, despite the consequences. (May)
New Scientist
In the era of the ubiquitous web company, The Silicon Jungle provides ample food for thought.
— Zena Iovino
Booklist Online
[T]his cautionary tale is fascinating for its exploration of technology as a conduit for crime.
— Michele Leber
Mathematics Teacher
The book's central message is fascinating. A company like Google, Baluja points out, has far more information on U.S. citizens than does the FBI and far fewer restrictions on how to use it. It's a chilling message in a fun package.
— Kathleen Offenholley
New Scientist - Zena Iovino
In the era of the ubiquitous web company, The Silicon Jungle provides ample food for thought.
Booklist Online - Michele Leber
[T]his cautionary tale is fascinating for its exploration of technology as a conduit for crime.
Mathematics Teacher - Kathleen Offenholley
The book's central message is fascinating. A company like Google, Baluja points out, has far more information on U.S. citizens than does the FBI and far fewer restrictions on how to use it. It's a chilling message in a fun package.
Library Journal
Ubatoo is an Internet darling with the combined power and privilege of Google and Facebook; employees access our emails, searches, and buying histories to help advertisers better understand and market to users. But who are these employees, and should they be trusted? Enter Stephen, a smart but naive Ubatoo intern assigned to the data-mining team. Wanting to impress his supervisors, he takes on a secret job for the American Coalition for Civil Liberties (ACCL). By sifting through users' data, Stephen compiles a list of citizens on one of the government's watch lists. Before his work can be used to improve our civil rights, however, a greedy ACCL employee sells the list to a criminal organization. Computer science Ph.D. Baluja no doubt calls on his experiences as a scientist at Google and at Carnegie Mellon University to fill this novel with frighteningly convincing details about the precariousness of our personal data. VERDICT The read is quick, the questions will linger, and the ideas are so intriguing that the sometimes stilted writing will be overlooked. Baluja simplifies the abstract world of tech-speak for the rest of us while aiming to do for the Internet what Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did for the meat industry: make readers reconsider its safety. For fans of intelligent thrillers.—Stephen Morrow, Ohio Univ., Athens
From the Publisher

Co-Winner of the 2012 Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work, Media Ecology Association

"Baluja's clever, cynical debut explores the frightening possibilities of data mining. . . . A nod to Upton Sinclair's muckraking The Jungle, which scared its readers into regulating the meat-packing industry, this lively if depressing novel suggests that computer snooping is too seductive to control, despite the consequences."--Publishers Weekly

"[F]righteningly convincing. . . . The read is quick, the questions will linger, and the ideas are so intriguing. . . . Baluja simplifies the abstract world of tech-speak for the rest of us while aiming to do for the Internet what Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did for the meat industry: make readers reconsider its safety. For fans of intelligent thrillers."--Stephen Morrow, Library Journal

"In the era of the ubiquitous web company, The Silicon Jungle provides ample food for thought."--Zena Iovino, New Scientist

"[T]his cautionary tale is fascinating for its exploration of technology as a conduit for crime."--Michele Leber, Booklist Online

"The book's central message is fascinating. A company like Google, Baluja points out, has far more information on U.S. citizens than does the FBI and far fewer restrictions on how to use it. It's a chilling message in a fun package."--Kathleen Offenholley, Mathematics Teacher

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691147543
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/17/2011
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Shumeet Baluja is a senior staff research scientist at Google. He was formerly the chief technology officer of Jamdat Mobile and chief scientist at Lycos. He holds a PhD in computer science and has served as an adjunct faculty member in both the computer science department and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

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