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Surveillance Valley: The Rise of the Military-Digital Complex

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The internet is the most effective weapon the government has ever built.
In this fascinating book, investigative reporter Yasha Levine uncovers the secret origins of the internet, tracing it back to a Pentagon counterinsurgency surveillance project.
A visionary intelligence officer, William Godel, realized that the key to winning the war in Vietnam was not outgunning the ene
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by PublicAffairs
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  242 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Vikas Erraballi
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m so concerned about this I post my entire reading list on goodreads
Aaron Arnold
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Usually the news stories fretting about how much power tech companies have over our lives that appear every day are framed as the cost of doing business: for example, the reason why Google makes it so hard to turn off location tracking is that they just really want to serve you targeted ads. But while those privacy concerns can and often do boil down to simple greed, one reason why problems of tracking and control are so endemic is that Silicon Valley is intimately connected to the national secu ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To really understand what makes this book interesting it's probably best to get yourself in the right frame of mind, by reading something like Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society or Dmitry Orlov's Shrinking the Technosphere. What is a technology? Our gut instinct as Americans is that technology makes our lives easier. But can it make them harder as well? Has the Internet turned America into a nation of serfs?

With the proper background, you will understand what makes this book so interestin
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I went into this book expecting a quick read, but this isn't that type of book. It starts off with a lengthy history of the internet, beginning at its very infancy as a tool to help census counters collect and sort information, all the way up to the present day. This background was necessary to lay the foundation for the rest of the book, but while interesting, it could be a bit dense at times.

Surveillance Valley picks up speed about halfway through, when the author behind detailing how basicall
lauren  g
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A post-modern must-read.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Main takeaways:
Snowden's and "privacy advocates'" selective silence on the role of Silicon Valley in the creation of the modern surveillance state is really problematic, as is their refusal to be clearly discuss the shortcomings of apps like Signal and TOR (which are all funded by the US govt that these "libertarians" supposedly distrust). Although these tools can be used in ways that guarantee both anonymity and privacy, especially Signal seems rather suspect (because of integration with Play a
Adam  McPhee
computer technology can’t be separated from the culture in which it is developed and used.

The first part is a history of the Internet. It reminded me of reading Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal in high school: on the one hand, constantly dismayed by the appalling practices used to create and sustain an industry, but on the other hand, I was also left with the feeling of wanting a burger (or in this case to reminisce about my early experiences with the Internet and to to
Salam Ch
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting and scary book !!!!
I was so surprised to know that the idea of internet started as military project since Vietnam war and later was shared with the public not the way around .
Also that TOR the dark web was started by government agencies to stay undercover !!!!
There is a lot of info in this book about how internet came to be and how google and other platforms are using and sharing data for advertising companies, goverment, military and intelligent agencies.
David Wineberg
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
TOR is a federal sting?

TOR is the dark internet, where identity thieves, drug dealers and arms sellers hang out, safely hidden. It is home to Wikileaks and Silk Road. You can purchase anything from a billion stolen e-mail accounts to assassination services there. Turns out TOR is a service designed and built by the CIA, and even though TOR is now a non-profit organization, it is almost entirely funded by annual “donations” from a handful of US government agencies, mostly connected - to the CIA.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow, Surveillance Valley is one of those books I had to read and digest a little at a time. Yasha Levine has certainly piqued my interest and the desire to read more about the subject. I wished that I had a reading buddy to discuss and debate the information contained in this book. It would be an excellent selection for a book discussion group, simply based on my own wishes. The book is organized well and the references are explained in a conversational manner. My paranoia has definitely been tr ...more
Noah Skocilich
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great investigative journalism about something that matters.

Told elegantly and intelligently.

This is one of those books like Shock Doctrine or Democracy in Chains that has reshaped and deeply clarified my understanding of current events.
A tour the force. Levine offers a radically alternative history of the internet. Like most people I bought into the narrative of its inherently liberatory nature for quite some time. My career would not exist if it wasn't for the internet, so like many of my peers I am severely biased towards it. But for a while now, a sense of unease with this perspective had been growing. And this book was the final nail in the coffin for me. The internet was conceived as a weapon of social control and surveil ...more
Ralph Cooper
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interested in the timeline of the Internet development. Good review of key milestones and some of the players I'd not known about.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Type of story I tend to believe. Technologies I knew escaped from the author’s critics: VPN/Proxy/Telegram/Crypto utilities
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The worlds population is ignorant they're living inside American military infrastructure... libertarian hippies and a variety of vested interests are profiting from masking this... counter insurgency, packet switching, Ayn Rand, acid, TOR, etc, etc all important stuff to think about.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
Not perfect, but entertainingly told with its focus on "characters" involved in the history of certain internet developments, and I appreciated Levine's informed contrarianism, particularly in the latter chapters. Worth reading even though some of the historical content regarding the military origins of the internet is fairly well-trodden ground at this point.
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! A well written, researched and enjoyable read that will reset any preconceived notions about the internet and privacy.
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Originally named ARPANET in the 1960s by the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the network was designed to be a communication tool able to withstand a nuclear attack. With the help from the National Science Foundation (NSF), ARPANET expanded in the early 1980s for university research - which then grew into the modern-day Internet. Should the NSA documents Edward Snowden leaked have been a surprise? Do we need to expect companies like Facebook and Google to collect, monetize, a ...more
Alexey Goldin
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is not by any means a flawless books. The author is biased and often lacks relevant technical knowledge. However you will find information here thoroughly missed in hagiographies. There is a lot of skeletons in closets that were carefully forgotten and exposed by Yasha through journalistic work (these days often replaced by googling it up) and careful study of FOIA documents.

Very recommended.
Mal Warwick
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The secret military history of the Internet comes to light in a powerful new book.

It's well known that the Internet was birthed by the Pentagon. Originally called the ARPANET, the name reflected its origin in the military's Advanced Research Projects Agency created late in the Eisenhower Administration. What is much less well known is that its principal purpose was not to serve as a communications network that could survive a nuclear attack (although that's routinely stated as the reason for dev
Doug Connell
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
#47 out of my goal of 100

A good reminder that there is nothing you can do online completely anonymously. Though privacy is touted and claimed, as Christians we must remember nothing lies unnoticed by God.

Thoroughly researched (almost a hundred pages of endnotes) and sober, it’s detailed history of how our government funded the technological ‘germ’ that became the modern internet, during the Vietnam War.

Avoiding conspiratorial jargon - which I appreciated - it reads more like a very long-form art
Dave McLeod
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Investigative reporting of a scale and detail that I could only describe as ‘majestic’, followed by ‘heroic’ that it comes from a single inhumanly dedicated writer. Fascinating!
Trevor Kroger
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Your profile is watching you.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read, I learned some interesting new stuff about the shape of the internet. His style of writing is very easy to digest, even as he's throwing acronyms at you from left right and centre.

This book is by no means comprehensive. It focuses solely on the United States, and makes no effort at placing the surveillance work of the US military and US corporations in a global context (it seems to be beyond the purview of what the author was attempting in any case).

It also skips over other tec
Chris Edwards
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well written, extremely well sourced, and overall a very approachable read for someone looking to understand the history of the Internet's symbiotic relationship with the US military industrial complex. Levine tells us the entire history of the Internet, weaving a story of government suits, utopian visionaries, and Cold War warriors responsible for its creation over many decades, before jumping ahead to the impact of Silicon Valley, Edward Snowden, and the Tor Network on our modern lives.

Make no
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
the standard yasha levine reporting style of establishing that someone gets funding from someone bad then repeating that fact for five hundred pages: not bad!
Brian Palmer
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
The author, a former journalist at Pando Daily (a web publication focusing on tech and startups which I used to read), tackles Silicon Valley as providing tools of surveillance in a post-Snowden era. There were some very interesting bits on the history of ARPA, the proto-Internet, and early government involvement in the tech sector; but the second half (focusing on the post-Snowden era) felt very lightweight and a bit sensationalist. But perhaps that's because it's part of the subject area I was ...more
Willy Marz Thiessam
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers, politics
Yasha Levine has produced a fairly useful agglomeration of sources in this exposition about the Internet and its role in the command and control strategy of the US military and security services. The basic argument is that the situation has a history and its becoming more than ever, encroaching on all freedoms, the instrument for the government to control what we do.

Its a very useful read and I hope everyone who has at least a passing interest in the surveillance of the Internet has a chance to
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
For the most part, this is a well-written and very convincing book. My only complaint is the repetition in the writing. It seems as though Levine wrote in sections then pieced the book together and the editors didn't catch the almost identical descriptions that appeared in some cases.
I was very impressed by Levine's citations and commitment to transparency; though I did find it odd when he relied in the footnotes (without comment) on the writing of Micah Lee whose criticism Levine faced and n
Steve Nolan
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The part about the government being involved in the internet from the get-go, not surprising. That they'd support using it for surveillance, also not surprising. But that Edward Snowden and all those privacy bros didn't realize how bad Tor sucks is surprising as hell!! Ugh. (The fact that he's actually a libertarian is maybe more gross, though.)

The US propaganda radio stations all throughout the rest of the world is reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaal rich considering all the RUSSIAN FAKE NEWS on facebook that
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“Today, everything serves war. There is not one discovery which the military does not study with the aim of applying it to warfare, not one invention which they do not attempt to turn to military use. —Nikolai Fyodorov, Philosophy of the Common Cause, 1891” 0 likes
“The Internet is perhaps one of the most valuable public inventions of the twentieth century, and decisions made by a few key unelected officials in the federal bureaucracy set the Internet on the certain path to privatization. There was no real public debate, no discussion, no dissension, and no oversight. It was just given away, before anyone outside this bureaucratic bubble realized what was at stake.” 0 likes
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