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Hardcover $27.99
Available Sep, 02 2014
What Stays in Vegas
The World of Personal Data-Lifeblood of Big Business-and the End of Privacy as We Know It

Summary

In What Stays in Vegas, journalist Adam Tanner exposes the greatest threat to privacy today. It’s not the NSA, but good-old American companies. Internet giants, leading retailers and other firms are gathering data behind the scenes with little oversight from anyone. “This is the information age, and information is power!” screamed DocuSearch, “America’s Premier Resource for Private Investigator Searches & Lookups” in 1996—and they were right.

In Las Vegas, no company knows this mantra better than Caesars Entertainment. Despite the fact that its Vegas casinos are decades old and can’t boast their rivals’ singing gondoliers or fountains exploding in a choreographed dance, many thousands of enthusiastic clients continue to pour through the ever-open doors of Caesars hotels. The secret to the company’s success lies in their one unrivaled asset: they are able to track the activities of the overwhelming majority of gamblers who walk in. They know exactly what games we like to play, what foods we enjoy for breakfast, when we prefer to visit, who our favorite hostess might be and exactly how to keep us coming back for more.

Caesars’ dogged data-gathering methods have been so successful that they grew to become the world’s largest casino operator, and they have inspired companies from across industries to ramp up their own data mining in the hopes of boosting their targeted marketing efforts. Some do this themselves. Some rely on data brokers. Others clearly enter a moral gray zone that would make American consumers deeply uncomfortable.

Even if you’ve never set foot in a casino or signed up for an airline’s frequent flier program, companies little-known to the public like Acxiom are still gathering information on you at every turn. And there are those, such as PeopleSmart and Instant Checkmate, that will sell your dossier to anyone for cash.

The reality is that we live in an age where our personal information is harvested and aggregated whether we like it or not. And it is growing ever more difficult for those businesses that choose not engage in more intrusive data gathering to compete with those that do. Tanner’s timely warning resounds: yes, there are many benefits to the free flow of all this data, but there is a dark side as well. With societal and legal boundaries on the use of personal data still largely undefined, the potential for abuse looms large.

And, as to what stays in Vegas? The answer: almost nothing…

about Adam Tanner

  • Adam Tanner writes about the business of personal data. He is a fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University and was previously a Nieman fellow there. Adam Tanner has worked for Reuters News Agency as Balkans bureau chief based in Belgrade, Serbia, as well as San Francisco bureau chief, and has had previous postings in Berlin, Moscow, and Washington, DC. He also contributes to Forbes and other magazines.

reviews

“Tanner illustrates his arguments with a traditional, vivid example from the business and entertainment world: Caesars Palace in Las Vegas…Tanner weaves this example into a gripping account of the modern direct-marketing industry… In this fascinating look at the dazzling if suffocating domain of digital information gathering, Tanner concludes that it is returning us to a world of farms and villages, where intimate details of everyone’s lives were public knowledge.”—Kirkus Reviews, *starred* review

“Data may be to the 21st century economy what oil was to the 20th, a hugely valuable asset essential to economic life and often a source of conflict. This entertaining yet deeply informative book is a great guide to what has, or hasn’t, happened and to what lies ahead.” —Lawrence Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, & President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University

“In Adam Tanner’s fast-paced investigative report, What Stays in Vegas, we learn that the great advances of the digital age, access and interconnectedness, also carry great risks. Never before has information about one’s identity been more valuable or easier to track for insights—and advantage. As we continue gathering data to unlock the secrets of our pasts and futures, here’s what I hope doesn’t ‘stay in Vegas’: the need to read Tanner’s book to figure out how to balance the promise of personalization against the threats posed to privacy. It’s much too important a question to leave to the roll of dice.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of Harvard University

other editions

  • eBook | ISBN 9781610394192
    Pub date: 2014-09-02 | Price: $27.99/31.00 Canada
    6.125 x 9.250 | 336 Pages
    Business & Economics / Marketing / Direct
    Law / Privacy
    Political Science / Public Policy / Science & Technology Policy
    Request reprints and permissions
  • Hardcover | ISBN 9781610394185
    Pub date: 2014-09-02 | Price: $27.99/31.00 Canada
    6.125 x 9.250 | 336 Pages
    Business & Economics / Marketing / Direct
    Law / Privacy
    Political Science / Public Policy / Science & Technology Policy
    Request reprints and permissions