Live tsunami videos. Metric conversions. Megan Fox's yearbook picture. These random phrases can all be connected by one seemingly ubiquitous six-letter word - Google. More specifically, they were on this weekend's "most commonly searched" list. How did I figure this out? I Googled it, obviously.
In the last decade, Google has played a gigantic part in exposing the world to all the Internet has to offer (or inundating society with a bunch of useless crap, depending on how you look at it). Google Maps, Google Books, Google Pictures, Google Scholar - there is not a single facet of society that the Google monster has yet to infiltrate. Therefore, the agreement between Google and the National Security Administration that began on Feb. 4 should be a concern for everyone.
Earlier this year, Google's normal operations were disrupted by a group of Chinese hackers. In order to prevent a second breach of security, the company sought out the help of the NSA earlier this month. So what's the big deal? The NSA is one of the government's sneakiest entities; it was responsible for all of the post-9/11 wiretaps and internal terrorist investigations. By allowing the NSA an undisclosed amount of access to one of the world's most visited Web sites, Google could be setting up the American people for a serious violation of privacy.
Public concerns have already turned into lawsuits. The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of a coalition of authors and publishers, is already in court against the formation of an online library run by Google because there is no privacy or free speech protection for users. The current settlement allows Google to save all of the books a user reads, when and how often they read them and even the notes a user takes in the margins.
Not only is there nothing currently in place to stop Google from selling this information to the highest bidder - in this case the NSA - but the company also is not obligated to allow customers to see what information is collected and distributed.
Normally, I am not the ACLU's No. 1 fan. I am not a terrorist, therefore I don't really care if someone snoops through my bookshelf. There is a fat, glow-in-the-dark line that exists between government information and private information, however, and this deal is getting a little too close for comfort.
Creepy big government conspiracy theories aside, I just don't see how involving the NSA in Google's business was necessary. Google has done just fine without government intervention for years, why freak people out now? Aren't there private security companies? If I find out that my tax dollars are be paying for surveillance on some nerdy teenage kid's obsession with angsty literature, I will not be amused.
Obviously, the Google we know and love isn't going to become GoogleChina anytime soon. To the best of my knowledge, President Barack Obama isn't fiddling on a laptop somewhere determining appropriate content for the Internet. Just to be safe though, perform all of your sketchy Google searches before this deal is finalized and save yourself a visit from some government spooks.