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Citizen privacy is a hot topic right now. In the last several weeks, a series of news stories reported about the federal government collecting information from the phone calls and Internet activity of millions of Americans. Last week, Google started fanning the fire. On their official blog, Google requested permission from the Attorney General and the FBI Director to release more complete information about governmental requests for user activity. Basically, Google, receives requests from the government about user activity and information, and they want to share further details about the requests, so as to not look like they are choosing to sell out their users. These type of requests are covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Now, I’m not actually going to weigh in on this issue. I have long believed we are probably under all sorts of surveillance, and honestly, it is somewhat comforting to me. Not that I am being watched, but that the bad guys are being watched. I will say that when I read that Google scans every email that passes through their Gmail system, I did feel a bit violated, but that’s not what bothers me.
You know what scares me the most about all of this? There could be a record somewhere with my name on it tracking all of my Google searches. And if there’s a record, someday it could be released, leaked, whatever. Ahhh! The thought of that is maybe a little bit terrifying. Okay – A LOT terrifying to me.
Google searches are bursting with personal information. Not the phone number, social security number kind of information. The real personal information. Internet searches are like a strange mix of personal thoughts, health history and morbid curiosities all lumped together.
For instance, probably a good 65% of all my Googling involves some sort of bodily fluid. Granted this is partly due to having five kids, two of which brought home all sorts of fun stuff from Africa, however there are plenty of health searches that were solely for me. My Google profile probably states that I am an irrational hypochondriac or that I run a veterinary clinic. I mean, what else are they supposed to think with searches like, “what do worms in stool look like?” GROSS!
I suppose I should admit here that my parents, and potentially my husband, probably believe I do have some small level of hypochondria. I would argue, however, that I am just very in touch with my body and have an extremely sensitive system. And a small throat. Which is why two months ago when I was prescribed an antibiotic for a random skin infection, I had to get it in liquid form. Of course, then I had to google it’s side effects, which led me down a whole other trail.
Oh, and what about pregnancy? I’m gonna guess that pregnancy searches probably rival the embarrassment of kid health condition searches. I’m not going to even give any examples here because I’ve probably already crossed the line of ‘too much information’, but if you’ve had a baby before, you are currently nodding your head in agreement. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the good Lord probably never intended for us to know, and certainly not see, the detailed information that we have access to these days. The gift of bearing children is just beyond amazing, but it is full of ickiness!
My Google profile would also indicate I am possibly the messiest person on earth. Or that I own a cleaners that specializes in stain removal. “How to get _____ out of _____” is a ridiculously common search of mine.
Then there are the morbid curiosities. You know what I’m talking about. These are the ones that you think twice about before you hit enter, just in case there actually is someone out there watching. I
am not going to share can’t think of any of mine, but I’m sure you can think of some of yours.
Now, not all of my searches are embarrassing. I search normal stuff too. Google has completely replaced dictionaries and concordances for me. If I want to know how to spell something, I google it. If I need to find Bible verses on a particular topic or the reference for a specific verse, I just google it. When I’m trying to gain direction on something, sometimes I even think about googling it. But I don’t. As powerful and all-knowing as Google is, the Holy Spirit is pretty irreplaceable.
Oh, and my Google profile probably says English is my second language. Everyone knows that to get the best search results, you should search with terms and not sentences – i.e. Google speak. Instead of searching “how to keep a child from wetting their bed,” the more successful search would be, “how to stop child wet bed.” Even though it makes you seem like you don’t have a great grasp of the English language, it keeps you from getting search results from Yahoo Answers where any idiot in the world can answer. And they do.
So, would having your search history be made public panic you too? I’d love to hear I’m not the only one. 😉