About this NSA Privacy Thing

What’s worse for individual privacy rights: government intrusion, or private sector intrusion?

It’s old news that Google retains search results forever (if a user has ‘web history’ enabled) or for 18 months, following which time the results will be partially anonymized (if ‘web history’ is disabled).

I’m not referring to storing information on your own PC via cache.

I’m talking about the Google company itself, retaining information on its own servers, for whatever benign or malicious reason Eric Schmidt has devised.

Facebook’s “Data Retention Policy” (the honest name for its corporate view of privacy) keeps data forever on its servers. Significantly, if you are logged on to your Facebook account and, in a totally different web window you view an unrelated webpage that happens to use a Facebook API (such as the famous “F” to “like” the page), Facebook will link you to that 3rd party page, and store the information on its servers for time immemorial.

Now comes the news that the US government is secretly accessing the computing servers of every major internet search engine and social media site (except apparently Twitter).

Is there a difference?

Without politicizing the issue, corporate data raiders are certainly different from the National Security Agency.

Will the NSA’s raid on personal data prevent another terrorist attack on our country? I do not know; that is its stated goal.

With the NSA’s program in place, is there the potential for abuse of personally-identifiable information? Of course.

But, in stark contrast, is there any potential benefit to the public weal as a result of the Facebook and Google data storage policies?

I think not.

The price for liberty may be harsh.

But the price for internet searches – it’s like going to the store to buy a shirt for $30 only to receive a surprise $1,000 surcharge on your credit card bill. “Fine print” or not, the non-cash cost of search engine usage is expensive indeed.


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