The best books to understand how technology affects your human rights

Who am I?

I’ve always been passionate about social justice as a writer and as an international human rights lawyer. I had worked on human rights, surveillance, and privacy for decades around the world, but it was when I first read about Cambridge Analytica back in 2017 that it felt personal – privacy is the gateway to our right to freedom of thought and opinion and Big Tech is increasingly acting as the gatekeeper to all our human rights. These books have all helped me to understand what the risks are and how to tackle them.


I wrote...

Freedom to Think: Protecting a Fundamental Human Right in the Digital Age

By Susie Alegre,

Book cover of Freedom to Think: Protecting a Fundamental Human Right in the Digital Age

What is my book about?

Without a moment's pause, we share our most intimate thoughts with trillion-dollar tech companies. Their algorithms categorize us and jump to troubling conclusions about who we are. They also shape our everyday thoughts, choices, and actions - from who we date to whether we vote. But this is just the latest front in an age-old struggle.

Part history and part manifesto, Freedom to Think explores how the powerful have always sought to influence how we think and what we buy. Connecting the dots from Galileo to Alexa, human rights lawyer Susie Alegre charts the history and fragility of our most important human right: freedom of thought. Filled with shocking case studies across politics, criminal justice, and everyday life, this ground-breaking book shows how our mental freedom is under threat like never before.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Privacy Is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data

Why did I love this book?

Privacy Is Power gets to the heart of why we should all be worried about encroachments on our privacy. 

Carissa Veliz is a philosopher and a talented writer who brings complex and profound ideas to life on the page. Some writing about technology can feel dry and detached, but Veliz makes you understand viscerally how the impact of technology is a human, not a technological issue. 

By Carissa Veliz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Privacy Is Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Economist BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

As the data economy grows in power, Carissa Veliz exposes how our privacy is eroded by big tech and governments, why that matters and what we can do about it.

The moment you check your phone in the morning you are giving away your data. Before you've even switched off your alarm, a whole host of organisations have been alerted to when you woke up, where you slept, and with whom. As you check the weather, scroll through your 'suggested friends' on Facebook, you continually compromise your privacy.

Without your permission, or even…


Book cover of Turned on: Science, Sex and Robots

Why did I love this book?

In Turned On, Kate Devlin takes us on a ride through the history of sex and technology, from the Ancient Greeks to modern sex robots. 

This book is written by a technologist with an acute sense of the human. Not strictly a book about human rights, Devlin raises human rights and ethical considerations around sex tech as well as offering optimism and imagination about the ways that we could enhance our intimate lives with technology. 

The way we experience sex and intimacy is at the heart of our right to private lives, Turned On offers an erudite, funny, and sensitive exploration of what technology could mean for us.

By Kate Devlin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Turned on as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Illuminating, witty and written with a wide open mind' Sunday Times

The idea of the seductive sex robot is the stuff of myth, legend and science fiction. From the myth of Laodamia in Ancient Greece to twenty-first century shows such as Westworld, robots in human form have captured our imagination, our hopes and our fears. But beyond the fantasies there are real and fundamental questions about our relationship with technology as it moves into the realm of robotics.

Turned On explores how the emerging and future development of sexual companion robots might affect us and the society in which we…


Book cover of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

Why did I love this book?

This book diagnoses the source of the problems we have in our relationship with technology digging deep into the business models of big tech. 

Zuboff coined the term “surveillance capitalism” to explain the ways in which people became the product, our data becoming increasingly valuable as new technologies find new ways to read us. A weighty book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism will tell you everything you need to know about how your life is exploited and affected by the technology all around us.

By Shoshana Zuboff,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Age of Surveillance Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE TOP 10 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defense.' -- Naomi Klein, Author of No Logo, the Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything and No is Not Enough

The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.

The heady optimism of the Internet's early days is gone. Technologies that were meant to liberate us have deepened inequality and stoked divisions. Tech companies gather our information online and sell…


1984

By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why did I love this book?

I reread 1984 at the start of the pandemic when I started to research my book and was blown away by Orwell’s prescience and the quality of his writing. 

1984 is utterly enthralling and cuts to the bone of what it means to be human and the political dynamics of technological control. It is a warning that we have so far failed to heed but there is still time – read it now and be spurred into action.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Brave New World

Why did I love this book?

Brave New World really captures the societal risks associated with a technologically enhanced world. 

While Orwell describes the authoritarian risks of technology, Huxley looks at the disturbing ways that consumerism and capitalist culture can drive social control enhanced by technology. Hyper-sexualisation, pointless consumerism, eugenics, and drug fuelled hedonism, the world Huxley paints flags risks with our current tech-driven world in ways we cannot ignore. 

Like 1984, the resonance of Brave New World in modern society was deeply troubling and particularly poignant examples pepper my own book.

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Brave New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**One of the BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World**

EVERYONE BELONGS TO EVERYONE ELSE. Read the dystopian classic that inspired the hit Sky TV series.

'A masterpiece of speculation... As vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as it was when I first read it' Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale.

Welcome to New London. Everybody is happy here. Our perfect society achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family and history itself. Now everyone belongs.

You can be happy too. All you need to do is take your Soma pills.

Discover the brave new…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in totalitarianism, robots, and information technology?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about totalitarianism, robots, and information technology.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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