The best books about privacy and surveillance that will never grow obsolete

Lawrence Cappello Author Of None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age
By Lawrence Cappello

Who am I?

I grew up in an Italian-American family that taught its children to respect other people’s privacy, and demand that people respect ours. Privacy is an essential part of what it means to live in a free society. It creates space for intimacy. The deterioration of our privacy rights is one of the most important issues facing the modern world, and I’ve dedicated my career to teaching and writing about it. I am an author, a professor, and a data privacy professional. My public lectures on the right to privacy include the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Senate, the National Football League, and leading tech and cryptocurrency companies.

I wrote...

None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age

By Lawrence Cappello,

Book cover of None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age

What is my book about?

“‘What is it we fear we’re losing?’ Cappello asks in his brilliant history of privacy in America. Is there any timelier question? Thoroughly researched and deftly told, None of Your Damn Business is a history of privacy written for and about Wall Street and Main Street, government and the courts, intelligence operatives and digital entrepreneurs, current and future citizens. It deserves our full attention.” - David Nasaw, New York Times best-selling author of The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why


By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why did I love this book?

A masterpiece. The perfectly written portrait of a dystopian society where there is no privacy, no intimacy, no humanity – only fear and control. Written in the 1940s as a warning against the perils of fascism, it remains one of the most important works of literature currently in print. Required reading for anyone who lives in a democracy.   

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?


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…

Uncanny Valley

By Anna Wiener,

Book cover of Uncanny Valley

Why did I love this book?

A beautifully written memoir about life and work in Silicon Valley in the 2010s and the culture built by our modern tech scions. Among other things the author explains, in clear down-to-earth language, just how much of our private information big data firms collect and process on a daily basis and how that collection can be used for nefarious purposes.

By Anna Wiener,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Uncanny Valley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Jezebel, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage.A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a January 2020 IndieNext Pick.

"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning…

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?

An important book. Zuboff captures in great detail the ways in which the erosion of our privacy has become embedded in our modern economy. Most people know that “information is power.” This is a book for anyone interested in how the bulk collection of information can be turned into money. This book is about the new normal.  

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?


'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…

Privacy and Freedom

By Alan F. Westin,

Book cover of Privacy and Freedom

Why did I love this book?

Written in the late-1960s, this is the original study of privacy by perhaps the greatest privacy scholar of the 20th century. Comprehensive and intricately detailed, Westin explores the changes and dangers facing American privacy at a crucial moment in American history. The book made such an impact when published that you can’t consider yourself a student of privacy if you haven’t read it. 

By Alan F. Westin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Privacy and Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"He was the most important scholar of privacy since Louis Brandeis."—Jeffrey Rosen

In defining privacy as “the claim of individuals…to determine for themselves when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated,” Alan Westin’s 1967 classic Privacy and Freedom laid the philosophical groundwork for the current debates about technology and personal freedom, and is considered a foundational text in the field of privacy law.

By arguing that citizens retained control over how their personal data was used, Westin redefined privacy as an individual freedom, taking Justice Louis Brandeis’ 19th century definition of privacy as a legal right and…

Book cover of No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State

Why did I love this book?

An unflinching look at the biggest surveillance whistleblower of the Internet Age. Greenwald tells the story of 29-year-old NSA contractor Edward Snowden and his leaking of classified documents about widespread illegal surveillance operations conducted by the United States government. The revelations detailed in this book sparked fierce debates about the future of American privacy and surveillance that are still shaping our modern political discourse.  

By Glenn Greenwald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Place to Hide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking look at the NSA surveillance scandal, from the reporter who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald, star of Citizenfour, the Academy Award-winning documentary on Edward Snowden

In May 2013, Glenn Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the 29-year-old NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency's widespread, systemic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in information technology, totalitarianism, and Silicon Valley?

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

Information Technology Explore 32 books about information technology
Totalitarianism Explore 45 books about totalitarianism
Silicon Valley Explore 22 books about Silicon Valley

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Soul of a New Machine, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, and World War Z if you like this list.