Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Chris Castle Headshot

The Spy Who Googled Me: Who Spied First, the NSA or Google?

Posted: Updated:

The National Security Agency is getting slammed again this week for a variety of things -- why? Because they are subject to oversight. They may have abused their authority, but when they honk down huge amounts of data -- more than it seems they could possibly use or analyze -- there's at least a pretext of a reason for it. You may not think much of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or of Mr. Snowden, but the law is there, there is some oversight and citizens do have someone to complain to.

A Bipartisan Issue

Think it's hard to find a bipartisan issue that can unite liberals and conservatives? Recent events would suggest that's a Herculean task. But maybe not.

Here's an interesting fact raised by the very conservative Richard Viguerie in a Politico op-ed:

Privacy used to be the exclusive realm of libertarians and the left, but the world that Edward Snowden unmasked has propelled conservatives to push forward on privacy.

It is time for conservatives to throw off the influence of surveillance state advocates, make common cause with libertarians and receptive liberals, and take the privacy fight a step further to rein in companies that -- wittingly or unwittingly -- have become the government's partners in the massive surveillance state.

When you look at the huge data center that the NSA is trying to build in Utah, you have to notice that it bears a striking resemblance to the data centers that Google have built in Oregon to suck down federally subsidized water from dams built over sacred Indian burial grounds. Like the NSA, how could Google possibly use or analyze all the data it collects?

And also like the NSA, much of the data that Google collects violates a host of laws around the world. French privacy authorities are likely going to sanction the company for failing to comply with privacy laws and court orders, and many other European countries are about to follow suit.

Google doesn't seem to care much. They keep snarfing down private data, sending cars around to take pictures of your house, and sharing private information across all their platforms from the kids honeypot YouTube to the wearable spy camera Google Glass. They have barges for data built in San Francisco and Portland, Maine.

In other words, if the NSA wanted to build a mini-me, they couldn't do much better than Google because Google can collect all the data it wants about private citizens without oversight, warrants or much of anything else, and then the NSA can just have Google hand it over.

Your Winnings, Captain Renault

Of course, one way Google can "hand it over" is to leave the back door open so that the NSA can go in and take the data that Google has collected. Then Google can be shocked, shocked that there is hacking going on here.

But even if you aren't prepared to believe that the entire enterprise is a charade, it does seem very clear that Google and the NSA have some striking commonalities in their approach to data collection.

Grab the data no matter what it is. You might find a use for it some day.

So you have to ask yourself -- which came first? Google's privacy law violations or the NSA's data collection practices? One certainly does serve the other.

Because if you had a search engine available to you that was as robust as Google, but it was called NSA search -- would you use it?

I think not.

Mr. Viguerie has a point:

The NSA tapping into Google's data centers is reminiscent of the age-old "Willie Sutton" rule: The agency captured personal data profiles from Google because that's where the data is. Indeed, the search giant has emerged as the purveyor of all of our personal information -- in one sense the NSA's leading vendor.

Today's tech behemoths amass huge collections of information, and use them to develop profiles that predict behavior and receptivity, everything from the content of emails to tracking our daily activities, habits, wants, etc. It all goes well beyond sophisticated marketing.

Don't it just.