The Hank Show: How a House-Painting, Drug-Running DEA Informant Built the Machine That Rules Our Lives

St. Martin’s. Oct. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781250209276. $30. TECH
Award-winning journalist Funk’s (Windfall) latest book is part biography and part “big data” history told through the adult life of Hank Asher (1951–2013). Big data is defined as large sets of information that can be computationally searched and analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. Law enforcement, governments, and private businesses use it to make policy decisions, which has raised privacy concerns. In the 1970s, Asher was a house painter and drug runner, who, after run-ins with law enforcement, became an informant for the DEA. By the 1980s, Asher rethought his career path and became interested in how he could make money using computers to analyze data. The author does not make judgments about Asher or the use of big data, but he does describe how it has evolved and become profitable for many. Funk has obviously done his research; there are 249 endnotes, grouped by chapter, at the end of the book.
VERDICT A timely book that reads like a Hunter S. Thompson adventure. A recommended purchase for libraries with computer science, public policy, or current events collections.
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