Book Review: ‘Control Shift’

January 3, 2018

Do you ever think that, given the fast pace of
change, it would be great if someone would take the technological and societal
changes of the last year or two, analyse the regulatory and legal implications,
and combine them together into one accessible, even enjoyable, book?

Well, it’s here: David Meyer’s ‘Control Shift’
is a superb encapsulation of pretty much every key tech issue from the past
couple of years. It’s insightful, easy to read, and, best of all, feels likes a
guided tour by a knowledgeable guide: Meyer sets the context, adds colour and
explores nuance, and skilfully links topics and themes together.

As the book draws on so many different
technologies and changes, I would fail if I were to attempt to explain what it
covers and, after all, the chapter listings are available on Amazon. The
overarching approach is rights-based, considering the changes in the context of
different fundamental rights — unsurprisingly, privacy has a strong focus, and
freedom of expression and respect for property feature heavily too.

Aspects which particularly appealed to me were
the contrast of commercial and governmental surveillance, the challenges of
dealing with ‘fake news’ while recognising principles of free speech and the
importance of intermediary liability shields, and Meyer’s examination of the
multi-jurisdictional ‘net neutrality’ debates.

The book concludes with a series of proposals of
steps which both companies and individuals can take to deal with some of the
challenges and threats presented: some practical and immediately implementable,
some a little more hopeful and thought-provoking.

Inevitably, in attempting to cover so much
ground, no individual topic is examined in great detail. That is a strength,
not a failing, as there are plenty of weighty tomes covering each individual
issue — consider this the literary equivalent of a gourmet restaurant’s tasting
menu, but priced at a very reasonable £14.99 (Kindle version: £9.99).

‘Control Shift’ will appeal differently to
different people. As someone who stays pretty much on top of the shifting
technology and legal environment, I found it to be a useful reminder of exactly
how much has gone on, and interesting to read how someone else has joined the
dots on various issues. Were I new to the field, it would be a superb
introduction to the broad range of issues which might cross my desk, made all
the more valuable by placing them into context.

Whether you want an introduction, a refresher,
or simply the benefit of Meyer’s skill in drawing themes together, it will be
money well spent.

You can buy ‘Control Shift’ on Amazon here: