What happens when a naive intern is granted unfettered access to people's most private thoughts and actions? Stephen Thorpe lands a coveted internship at Ubatoo, an Internet empire that provides its users with popular online services, from a search engine and e-mail, to social networking. When Stephen’s boss asks him to work on a project with the American Coalition for Civil Liberties, Stephen innocently obliges, believing he is mining Ubatoo’s vast databases to protect people unfairly targeted in the name of national security. But nothing is as it seems. Suspicious individuals surface, doing all they can to access Ubatoo’s wealth of confidential information. This need not require technical wizardry—simply knowing how to manipulate a well-intentioned intern may be enough.
The Silicon Jungle is a cautionary fictional tale of data mining’s promise and peril. Baluja raises ethical questions about contemporary technological innovations, and how minute details can be routinely pieced together into rich profiles that reveal our habits, goals, and secret desires—all ready to be exploited.
Baluja's clever, cynical debut explores the frightening possibilities of data mining using computers to access stored data in order to determine people's tastes and predict future behavior. Stephen Thorpe, an intern at computer giant Ubatoo, just wants to impress his boss by developing a list of traits by which to identify potential terrorists. Stephen's lover, Molly Byrne, just wants to finish her grad school thesis by building a Web page on which Islamic extremists can vent (or modify, with her coaxing) their rage. But when Stephen and Molly are set free on their computers without supervision, their curiosity leads them to create dangerous instruments. Stephen's list, for example, proves a valuable recruiting tool for terrorists. A nod to Upton Sinclair's muckraking The Jungle, which scared its readers into regulating the meat-packing industry, this lively if depressing novel suggests that computer snooping is too seductive to control, despite the consequences.