Book Review: ‘Control Shift’

Neil Brown reviews David Meyer’s ‘Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights’ and finds a lot in there - and a lot to like

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:

Published: 2018-01-03T17:00:00


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