Review of No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance StateNo Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had bought this book right away after reading the following tweet from a concerned friend:

It took me another 5 months to actually start reading the book.


First two chapters read like a Dan Brown thriller except that you constantly keep reminding yourself that this is not fiction and events leading to the Snowden revelations actually happened this way.

Third chapter was when my paced slowed down a lot as it describes facts about the various NSA programs and is full of technical detail. I believe my experience was also hampered by the fact that the Kindle edition was unable to show the screenshots of NSA documents in a good resolution. But this is probably the most important chapter in the book to understand exactly what kind of massive surveillance is America’s NSA and its partner organizations like the British GCHQ are capable of and to what extent they go to to hunt for information from public, who may not have a slightest relation with terrorism or illegal activities, without their knowledge.

In chapter 4, Greenwald describes why individual privacy is important for free thought and presents various arguments about the perils of massive surveillance. Chapter 5 deals primarily with freedom and current status of the media in the US; I could see the parallels in reporting of last two elections by corporate-owned vs independent media in India. It was surprising to note that the “UK has no constitutional guarantee of press freedoms” unlike the US.

No Place to Hide is a must read for anyone who uses digital communications and is bothered even a bit about their privacy.

Notable Quotes

Edward Snowden

  • Let us speak no more of faith in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of cryptography.
  • If you seek to help, join the open source community and fight to keep the spirit of the press alive and the internet free. I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.
  • The true measurement of a person’s worth isn’t what they say they believe in, but what they do in defense of those beliefs. If you’re not acting on your beliefs, then they probably aren’t real.
  • For many kids, the Internet is a means of self-actualization. It allows them to explore who they are and who they want to be, but that works only if we’re able to be private and anonymous, to make mistakes without them following us. I worry that mine was the last generation to enjoy that freedom.

Glenn Greenwald

  • We all instinctively understand that the private realm is where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment, and choose how to be, away from the judgmental eyes of others. Privacy is a core condition of being a free person.
  • If you can never evade the watchful eyes of a supreme authority, there is no choice but to follow the dictates that authority imposes. You cannot even consider forging your own path beyond those rules: if you believe you are always being watched and judged, you are not really a free individual.
  • But the true measure of a society’s freedom is how it treats its dissidents and other marginalized groups, not how it treats good loyalists.
  • The idea that we should dismantle the core protections of our political system to erect a ubiquitous surveillance state for the sake of this risk is the height of irrationality.
  • Transparency is for those who carry out public duties and exercise public power. Privacy is for everyone else.

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