You are being watched.

Whether through your phone or your car or your credit card, caught on a CCTV camera or tracked through your online viewing history, government agencies know where you are, and are quietly collecting your most intimate, mundane, and personal information.

Is this even legal?

Habeas Data shows how the explosive growth of surveillance technology has outpaced our understanding of the ethics, mores, and laws of privacy.

Award-winning tech reporter Cyrus Farivar makes the case by taking ten historic court decisions that defined our privacy rights and matching them against the capabilities of modern technology. It’s an approach that combines the charge of a legal thriller with the shock of the daily headlines.

Chapters include: the 1960s prosecution of a gambler that established the “reasonable expectation of privacy” in nonpublic places beyond your home (but how does that ruling apply now, when police can chart your every move and hear your every conversation within your own home — without even having to enter it?); the 1970s case where the police monitored a lewd caller — the decision of which is now the linchpin of the NSA’s controversial metadata tracking program revealed by Edward Snowden; and a 2010 low-level burglary trial that revealed police had tracked a defendant’s past 12,898 locations before arrest — an invasion of privacy grossly out of proportion to the alleged crime, which showed how authorities are all too willing to take advantage of the ludicrous gap between the slow pace of legal reform and the rapid transformation of technology.

A dazzling exposé that journeys from Oakland, California to the halls of the Supreme Court to the back of a squad car, Habeas Data combines deft reportage, deep research, and original interviews to offer an X-ray diagnostic of our current surveillance state.


“[A] lively history.”
The New Yorker

“A lively catalog of privacy-related court cases and laws that have arisen alongside new technologies.”
The New York Review of Books

“Farivar’s work is essential, smart and cogent.”
Cory Doctorow, co-editor, Boing Boing

Habeas Data should be required reading for all public officials who want to better understand the near-future of privacy and surveillance.”
Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland, California

“A great book. Cyrus Farivar shows that the government, at all levels, needs to be more forthright about what kind of surveillance is used on all of us. The law desperately needs to catch up.”
Ted Lieu, U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd congressional district

“Cyrus Farivar pulls back the curtain on how the government has transformed everyday technologies into surveillance machines, and public and private places into surveillance traps—part deep-dive into how everything from your smartphone to your home can be used as a surveillance tool, and part crash-course in the court cases that both help and fail to constrain the government’s most privacy-invasive activities.”
— Robyn Greene, policy counsel, Open Technology Institute at New America

“Essential reading for anyone concerned with how technology has overrun privacy.”
Mitch Kapor, co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

“A powerful book that looks at how two invisible forces—law and technology—combine to change the world we live in and the future that is available to us.”
Matt Mitchell, founder, CryptoHarlem

“Cyrus Farivar has covered the excitement and tensions of big data collection for years. He is perfectly positioned, with this new book, to chart the history that brought us here and suss out where we’re going next.”
Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones; co-host of Slate’s Political Gabfest


In 2018 and 2019, Cyrus will be doing readings and talks at various locations around the United States.

To invite him to speak at your university or group, please email:

April 29, 2019Hanover, NHDartmouth College – 5pm

Previous 2018 events:

April 9 – Davis UC Davis School of Law, King Hall, Room 1001 – 12pm

April 12MilwaukeeMarquette University Law School at Eckstein Hall – 12:15pm

April 19 – AnnapolisUS Naval Academy Center for Cyber Security Studies – PRIVATE EVENT

April 26 – Rohnert ParkSonoma State University, Introduction to Criminal Justice and Public Policy, Salazar 2013 – 1pm

May 2 – OaklandMain Library – 6pm

May 5 – OaklandDimond Branch Library – 1pm

May 8 – OaklandLaurel Books – 7pm (Launch Party!)

May 9 – Seattle – UW Law School Tech Policy Lab (RSVP to Hannah Almeter:

William H. Gates Hall – 12:30pm

UW Law happy hour at Schultzy’s – 5:30pm

May 12 – San FranciscoWriters With Drinks at Make Out Room– 7:30pm

May 14 – Palo AltoStanford Law School, Room 280B – 12:50pm

May 14 – Santa ClaraSCU School of Law at Lucas Hall, Room 126 (Forbes Room) – 7pm

May 17 – San FranciscoUC Hastings at Room 304, 198 McCallister – 6pm

May 20 – Los AngelesSkylight Books – 5pm

May 21 – Los Angeles – PRIVATE EVENT

May 22 – Santa MonicaDiesel – 6:30pm

May 30 – BerkeleyPegasus Books – 7:30pm

June 7 – Phoenix – ISSA – Venue 8600 ($30 for non-ISSA members) – 12:15pm

June 11 – Washington, DCR Street Institute – 5pm

June 11 – Washington, DCSolid State Books – 8pm

June 12 – Baltimore The Ivy Bookshop – 7pm

June 13 – OaklandArs Technica Live at Eli’s Mile High Club – 7pm

June 20 – San Francisco – PRIVATE EVENT

June 27 – Menlo ParkIn Deep Radio at Kepler’s Books – 7pm

July 18 – DavisYolo County Public Library – 7pm

July 31 – Corte MaderaBook Passage – 7:30pm

August 7 – Las Vegas – Skyfall Lounge (open to Black Hat attendees only) – 6:15pm

August 14 – OaklandOctopus Literary Salon – 7pm

August 30 – BerkeleyRoom 202, South Hall, UC Berkeley – 5:30pm

September 4 – Santa CruzDiscretion Brewing – 6:30pm

September 7 – DanvilleRakestraw Books – 7pm

September 14LexingtonUniversity of Kentucky – 3pm

October 8 – HoustonBrazos Bookstore – 7pm

October 9 – AustinCapital Factory – 7pm

October 10 – Dallas – PRIVATE EVENT

October 10 – DallasUT Dallas -2pm

October 11DallasUNT School of Law – 5pm

October 18 – Oakland – Tertulia – 6pm
(Benefit for Housing & Economic Rights Advocates, $40 suggested donation)

November 7 – New York – PRIVATE EVENT

November 7 – New YorkMolasses Books (with Meredith Broussard) – 8pm

November 13 – Mill ValleyMill Valley Rotary Club – 1pm