“Dear Google: So long, and thanks for all the phish”

For a few days now, revelation after revelation has been breaking about the NSA’s secret internet snooping system, Prism, primarily via Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

Reactions have ranged from “It’s a misunderstanding” to “Obama should be impeached“.

My own is one of betrayal; these last few years, I’ve become something of a Google fanboy – I use most of their major online services and quite a few of their applications. I own an Android phone. I switched from using POP3 mail to Gmail. And now, I find they’ve granted free reign to the NSA to rifle through the email of unsuspecting users. It truly is Orwellian – Big Brother is watching me.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin;

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

Many Americans are asking what in hell happened to their 4th amendment rights? Obama has personally reassured American citizens they are not being unfairly monitored.  However, they appear to give not one damn for foreigners, like me, that use Gmail and other American-based web services; indeed it  would appear that’s the point – being a foreigner makes me a potential terrorist, in the eyes of the US administration.

Google, Facebook and Yahoo have issued denials; the similarity between the language used in each case has not been missed – it appears they all received a copy of the same hymnsheet.

It’s pointless to ask them to own up and admit it – any deviation from their position would be devastating to their reputation. The opportunity to come clean has passed, all they can do now is double down. The upshot is I no longer believe a word they say.

So now, I must decide what to do?

Of the services implicated, I use mainly Google (including YouTube) and Facebook. Facebook would be impractical – a lot of people I know use it, and so to leave it would greatly affect me. I’ve always had a policy of not posting anything there I would not want to be public. My private messaging activity will certainly be curtailed though.

Google, on the other hand, runs far deeper. They have all my email. They have access to more information about me than I can remember myself – indeed, I use it as an extended memory, searching for forgotten details of my own history. They have my Google documents, passwords, linked accounts to other services via that email address, even my browsing history via Chrome.

Moving will be painful – I’ll need to find a new home to dump all my data, and it’ll be months before I find most of the accounts linked to that address and change them; I may never find them all. I’ll be forced to maintain that address long after I’ve ceased actively using it. It has to be done though – this is a fatal breach of trust, and may never be fixed. It cannot go unpunished, even at a cost to ourselves – the damage to those businesses may be massive and ongoing.

 

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