I’ve been using Google well over a decade now. That’s how I learned that someone skilled and diligent can find out a surprising amount of information about almost anybody. Google therefore has a detailed history of my searches for as long as they actually keep data. This data is potentially available to law enforcement — maybe. It worries me that they might be tailoring search results to give users what are potentially biased links. This might contribute to various ideological “echo chambers” across the nation. Web history can be turned off in Google, and I recommend you use the settings to do so.
I use Gmail. It is very good at filtering spam, I can access it from computers other than my home computer easily, and emails arrive at my phone (more on that in a bit). Just by keeping track of senders and subject lines of emails, Google knows of several places I shop, what mailing lists I am subscribed to, that I receive some emails in Japanese, what sorts of political views and charities I am likely to support, that I have a Twitter account, that I have historically had an interest in real estate, and what colleges I have attended. Remember, they only know more if they are actually reading my email and analyzing it in any way. I’m not as worried as I probably ought to be about this, because my attitude is “Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t read out loud to your mother, your boss, and a judge.” Hi mom!
Thanks to Google Calendar, they also know the rough outline of my schedule and the first names of friends I routinely meet for lunch. Services like Schedulicity are very good at syncing with Google Calendar, so the mothership also knows of certain service providers, how often I see them, and what services they perform for me.
Via Google+, they know of several people with whom I have personal, familial, or professional relationships.
I also use an Android phone. Here’s another way they know oodles about me. It syncs with all those services above, which is horribly convenient since I don’t have to carry a date book or sit at my computer; my phone has my calendar and contact information for people I know, and I can update things on the spot. My phone also has a GPS in it, and can inform me of weather or even how long it will take me to get home. Is this information relayed to the mothership? I must assume it does until proven otherwise. I have a bunch of apps on my phone, of course. The easiest way to get apps onto an Android phone is of course to get them through the Android store. Therefore Google has a very, very good idea what apps I have and am likely to be using, whether they are productivity apps or little time wasters.
If I used Blogger, they would know even more about me and my views!
And this is all information I have handed over more or less willingly. Even if they are not a CIA front, a surveillance minded government would be looking at how to mine that internet gold.
In Closing: I have a whole bunch of health and diet links today; a few random education links too; ok, here’s some NSA and privacy news, special up-is-down edition; Putin; pro-choice and pro-actual-life; that’s kinda what I thought; at least the White House got one thing right; sure sounds like an excuse to write more prescriptions and make more money to me; gravity and evolution are both theories; keep riding your Congressmouse’s butt on this and that; trolled; on wages and poverty; science fiction; snowplow parents; I doubt the Pope gives a hoot about the views of the “liberal media.”