Reset by Ronald Deibert


Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society

Paperback, 304 pages, ISBN: 9781487008055
Published by House of Anansi Press, 2020

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From the publisher:

In the 2020 CBC Massey Lectures, bestselling author and renowned technology and security expert Ronald J. Deibert exposes the disturbing influence and impact of the internet on politics, the economy, the environment, and humanity.

Digital technologies have given rise to a new machine-based civilization that is increasingly linked to a growing number of social and political maladies. Accountability is weak and insecurity is endemic, creating disturbing opportunities for exploitation.

Drawing from the cutting-edge research of the Citizen Lab, the world-renowned digital security research group which he founded and directs, Ronald J. Deibert exposes the impacts of this communications ecosystem on civil society. He tracks a mostly unregulated surveillance industry, innovations in technologies of remote control, superpower policing practices, dark PR firms, and highly profitable hack-for-hire services feeding off rivers of poorly secured personal data. Deibert also unearths how dependence on social media and its expanding universe of consumer electronics creates immense pressure on the natural environment. In order to combat authoritarian practices, environmental degradation, and rampant electronic consumerism, he urges restraints on tech platforms and governments to reclaim the internet for civil society.

Praise for Reset:

Finalist, Donner Prize

A Quill & Quire Book of the Year

National Bestseller

“Acute and provocative.” —Financial Times

“Tech is at a crossroads between oppression and liberation, and Ronald J. Deibert is our leading expert on the forces steering it in either direction. Reset is a road map revealing the secret alleys and byways that brought us to this juncture, and the ways ahead that we could navigate to a better future.” — Cory Doctorow, bestselling author of Radicalized and Walkaway

“One thing is for sure: your phone knows a lot more about you than you know about it. Ronald J. Deibert expertly cracks open our gadgets and electronics to reveal the who, what, and why behind our communications infrastructure. From digital espionage to big-data policing, Reset is a timely and critical look at how cutting-edge surveillance technologies are being weaponized against civil society. With the rise of authoritarianism around the world, Deibert’s book is a must-read for all who want to ensure that dark power stays in check.” — Ziya Tong, science broadcaster and author of The Reality Bubble

“Ronald J. Deibert is a rare hybrid who combines an advanced understanding of computer technology with a rich background in political science. He is also already a legend in security and tech circles because of his work as the founder and director of Citizen Lab … In Reset, Deibert outlines with tremendous economy and verve the major threats that face us as a consequence of our rapidly growing dependency on internet technologies, AI, robotics, and, further down the line, machine-to-machine learning and quantum computing. The clarity of his writing enables Deibert to categorize each aspect of the threat on a profound level that will nonetheless be accessible to any reader … Covid-19 has made it clear that our globalized world faces fundamental challenges to the survival of our species, along with most others. If we listen to Ron Deibert, we are still in position to head off another of those threats.” —Misha Glenny, bestselling author of McMafia and DarkMarket

“A reset is needed in the relation between privately run technologies and the public interest. Ron Deibert sketches what meaningful change looks like. Ron has been at the heart of analyzing the harms of technology to human rights, and increasingly to the human condition, for decades. His deep research and clear moral compass make his plea for a ‘reset’ an urgent one. To technology experts this book shines a clear light forward beyond current headline-grabbing incidents. To readers new to the depth of effects of the online information ecosystem, it is essential reading to gain clarity on where our values are at stake, and how we may preserve them.” — Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director of the Cyber Policy Center, Stanford University, and President of the CyberPeace Institute

Reset is a shocking call to action and a persuasively argued book. It is the sort of text one hopes will be read widely … After all, a reset of the basic infrastructure of life will only come through a profound political reckoning — and like the foment of 1968, it may just be a reconceptualization of what we want and why we want it that finally drives change.”—Quill & Quire

“In clear, concise language, Ronald J. Deibert sounds the alarm about social media’s most dangerous and pervasive threats to human autonomy, from the commodification of data to the ever-expanding reach of the surveillance state to the proliferation of disinformation and other tools of manipulation. Paired with urgent warnings about the perils of our online world, Deibert’s three-pronged formula for change — retreat, reform, restraint – is an urgent call we all should heed.” — Quill & Quire

“As a society and a democracy, we are slowly becoming aware of the power, use and more importantly misuse of our digital data. The need for government to grapple with the oversight of this space is clear. Currently, in Canada, it is of pressing importance. In Reset, an exceptionally well-written and accessible book, Deibert draws upon many real-life and startling examples (GlaxoSmithKlein’s investment in 23andMe). The information and issues, while complex, are effectively synthesized. Despite the promise the internet holds for the future of civilization, Deibert explains the forces that have undermined the nobler purposes and suggests policy to correct these malign forces. The book is compelling and clear and provides a solid case for action on the part of government. And Reset will make many Canadians more thoughtful about how they use their cellphones.” — Donner Prize Jury Citation

About the author:

Ronald J. Deibert

is professor of Political Science and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab undertakes interdisciplinary research at the intersection of global security, information and communications technologies, and human rights. The research outputs of the Citizen Lab are routinely covered in global media, including more than two dozen reports that received exclusive front-page coverage in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other global media over the last decade. Deibert is the author of Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy, and the Dark Side of the Internet, as well as numerous books, chapters, articles, and reports on internet censorship, surveillance, and cybersecurity.




Chapter One: Social Media Is Surveillance Capitalism.
The economic model of social media is organized around personal data surveillance.

Chapter Two: Social Media Are Addiction Machines.
The science of targeted advertising and the “engineering of consent” at the heart of social media.

Chapter Three: Social Media Propels Authoritarian Practices.
The rise and spread of authoritarian practices worldwide.

Chapter Four: Social Media Is Environmentally Destructive.
The negative environmental impacts associated with social media, from electronic mining to energy consumption to cloud computing’s contributions to CO2 emissions (which now exceeds that of the airline industry) to the growing problem of electronic waste.

Chapter Five: What Is to Be Done?
A comprehensive strategy of long-term reform is required, extending from the personal to the political, from the local to the global. We need to imagine a better world and start making it happen before it is too late.


(Credits: Book cover image and publisher’s description have been retrieved from BiblioShare.)

Buy this book from independent bookstores or those who support them:
  • Canada only (select your indie bookshop):

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