Google has the ability to track an individual’s searches — to record where your mind wanders when the boss isn’t looking, what political commentators you read, what you’re thinking about buying and what price you’re willing to pay, even what kinds of fantasies you entertain late at night.
Google is able to know too much, and I guess it’s no surprise that the Bush administration wants in on the action. The Justice Department’s demand to see an entire week’s worth of Google searches looks to me like an attempt by the administration to get its foot in the door, and if I’m right, it’s even more of an Orwellian threat than the National Security Agency’s snooping on phone calls and e-mails. The NSA snooping is illegal and unforgivable, to be sure, but the spooks want access to communications, and when we communicate with another human being we always censor ourselves to some degree. When we ask a question of Google, it’s akin to being in the privacy of the confessional. We lay ourselves bare.