By Tyler Durden.
August 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Earlier, we reported the personal narrative of Michele Catalano who recounted how one day she found herself face to face with six agents from the joint terrorism task force. The reason? “Our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.”
The answer of “who” was watching should be far clearer in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations from the past two months. But instead of rehashing the old story of the NSA intercepting and recording virtually every form of electronic communication that exists, or ruminating on what filters Ms. Catalano triggered to lead to this truly disturbing outcome, perhaps a better question is just what is it that Google knows about each and everyone who uses its interface daily, which in this day and age means everyone with a computer. As it turns out, pretty much everything.
Here is the thought, and not so “thought” experiment that the WSJ’s Tom Gara ran yesterday, before Ms. Catalano’s story had hit, to uncover just how rich his informational tapestry is in the repositories of the firm that once upon a time urged itself, rhetorically, to “not be evil.”
Let’s run through a little thought experiment.
Imagine there’s a list somewhere that contains every single webpage you have visited in the last five years. It also has everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on Google GOOG +1.86% Maps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched. Each entry is time-stamped, so it’s clear exactly, down to the minute, when all of this was done.
Now imagine that list is all searchable. And imagine it’s on a clean, easy-to-use website. With all that imagined, can you think of a way a hacker, with access to this, could use it against you?
And once you’ve imagined all that, go over to google.com/dashboard, and see it all become reality!
For a piece complementing today’s story on Google and privacy by the WSJ’s Amir Efrati, I took a deep dive into Google Dashboard, a kind of Grand Central Terminus for all the information the company has stored on you. It’s a truly amazing amount, especially if, like me, you have been a heavy Gmail user since its launch in 2004. As long as you are logged into Gmail, or any other Google account, the company isn’t just keeping track of how you use its own service — it’s noting every site you visit on the web.
Here’s a snapshot of the kind of data we found on my Google Dashboard, put together as a graphic for today’s newspaper. It includes my 64,019 Google searches, and 134,966 Gmail conversations: