I’m not suggesting that they do, it’s merely a question. It is, however, one that I’ve wondered about ever since the story broke about the NSA searching emails. For those of you that have been living under a rock, the story is that the NSA collects emails between Americans and people living overseas, as well as Americans with links to those living overseas. The NSA has openly acknowledged the first bit, but the second part was new. Of course, this controversy isn’t.
Google was implicated in this program as an entity that allows the government unrestricted access to user data. Google fought this, saying that this was inaccurate and impossible and that their reputation has been harmed by the suggestions. I have no doubt that this is true. However, recent documents suggest that the NSA has the ability to collect the emails, browser history, and chat history of anyone in the country. Not surprisingly, people were upset by this.
Here’s where I get confused. People are upset that the NSA reads their emails and whatnot. That’s fine. However, we’ve known for sometime that Google does this same thing. They admit it on their website. In fact, Google appears to be storing nearly everything you do on the internet (ironically, the linked article somewhat predicted the NSA scandal and its fallout). This is similar to what the NSA does, supposedly, yet no one seems to care. Even weirder, Google’s Street-View cars were gathering information on all wifi hotspots they encountered during their search and keeping the data transmitted over them! It’s like being wiretapped on your phone. Recently, Google made a statement that its users can’t expect privacy in their emails or searches (remember, they’re suing because their reputation was damaged by implications that the government was doing the same thing).
So I’m a bit confused here. NSA = bad internet snooping, email scanning, and data storage. Google = .. OK? Indifferent? internet snooping, email scanning, wifi commandeering, and data storage. Now, personally, I really don’t care if the government has my internet history data. It’s really boring. I visit six websites, xkcd, questionablecontent (which is a comic strip), ESPN, NPR, Cracked, and WordPress. Personally, I’m much more comfortable with the government storing my data than Google, which actually scans and uses it (to target ads). Google appears to have much less oversight than the NSA (which had little enough) regarding how it chooses to collect and use data. I guess my question is, why are more people not upset that Google does this, given the response to the NSA scandal? They’re very similar. Is it just that people don’t know? Do they not care when its a company versus the government? Personally, I love Gmail, but I’d stop if I could. I can’t, because switching email addresses would be enormously difficult at this point. But I wish I could.