Google, formerly known as the NSA

I am member of a guidance committee for Rathenau instituut in the Netherlands for a project about privacy. In this project we deal with the changing concept of privacy in our society. I talked about it some time ago in this post. It still amazes me how much people put on the net (including what I put on the Net, look at the sidebar of this Blog).
In this project a special website has been developed that invites people to comment on privacy, discuss and share all kind of ideas in a creative way around this subject (the website is www.privacyproject.nl). The information on the side ranges from exhibitionists to people putting an image of their passport on the web to people completely hiding how they look in real life. In the end a television documentary will be made out of it.
There is one item on the site that is I think very interesting. A colleague of mine, Rogier Brussee, has a conspiracy their for some time that Google is in fact a front for the NSA. Funny thing is if you look in the history of Google that they got quite large initial funding in order to pay for all the servers they needed to store all their data. Without it Google would not be able to show how good they are. But at this moment there really was not even a beginning of a business model. So his theory is that the NSA is the one that funded it (this is the organization with one of the largest budgets in the USA so funding 30 million dollar is mere noise to them). Their strong emphasis on “Don’t be Evil” of course fits nicely into this idea…
Just look at what Google knows of you:

  • It knows what you are interested in based on your searches as well as what link in the search results you clicked (the link you click on is not the real link but links to Google and than transfers you to the site you wish to go. Also you can save bookmarks, the kind of information on your iGoogle page, Google reader to show what blogs you are interested in (subscribed as well as the one you click on to read). The list goes on: adds you click on, the spell checker I use to check this blog so they already know I am writing about this before I post it …)
  • It knows what you are going to do based on your calendar info. The one thing that really surprises me is that Google does not yet have a tool to store your to-do items since this is a much better way (finer grained) for predicting what people are doing than your calendar).
  • It knows with whom you communicate and about what, based on your Gmail.

An of course, items like google apps enhance the knowledge about you by knowing what you are writing (though you would have sent it out with Gmail so they would have known anyhow.
Looking at this amount of data they have about a lot of people must the the ultimate dream of the NSA. Looking at the video below it is clear that more people are beginning to be suspicious.

Though I must say that I am totally addicted to Googe: Gmail, Calendar, Apps, Psearch, Scholar, and probably lots of others I use but do not know they are Googles (I use a very nice ToDo app that for all I know may be a front for Google (who is a front for …). I use them all because I like how they work (Hey Google, when are you going to develop this ToDo application, and when you are at it, why can’t I synchronize with my phone through SyncML…. If you do that you also know who I am calling).
I just hope they are not Evil…..

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