The For-Profit NSA

By Bill Maher

They have a record of every communication you’ve sent. They track you constantly via the phone in your pocket, and use that information however they please. They have sophisticated satellite imagery coupled with on-the-ground intel that enables them to do sophisticated 3D renderings of your home and your street at an extraordinary level of detail. They are building massive data farms so that these mountains of info can be stored indefinitely. 

And yet, nobody really gives a shit. They’re Google. The for-profit NSA.

It was recently reported that Google is working on a new program that will allow advertisers to serve up messages to consumers based on where they physically are at the moment and what they’re looking for. If you’re on Sunset Blvd. and you’ve recently Googled “shoes,” your phone might just pop up an alert about a sale at Off Broadway Shoes. 

And yet people are okay with this, because we’ve “agreed” to it. And we have, technically. We have all clicked “Agree” literally hundreds of times to get past completely unreadable software licenses.

Just by turning on “location services,” (which pretty much every smartphone user does), users have tacitly agreed to let Google constantly beam location information back to its servers. This info is (allegedly) stripped of its identity and is used to post up-to-the-second traffic information. But what if, without consciously “looking at you,” Google’s automated minions can combine its anonymous knowledge of your location with its anonymous knowledge of your search history and serve up a completely automated ad that essentially says, “Hey, I know you’re jonesing for a burger, and there’s a Wendy’s one block away.” Is that privacy? No human has actual access to your location and search habits, but the system in a very real way knows where you are, what you’re doing, and what you want. And it takes action based on that info to benefit powerful corporate sponsors.