“Those who would trade liberty for some temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”
I remember that the first time when I was really impressed by a search engine was when I was translating a long protocol from Japanese for pharmaceutical tests for a new medication as I was trying to figure what would be the name in English of a medication that was transcribed in Japanese. I put my guestimated spelling into a search engine, and …. voilà, I got back the actual spelling in English because I was only about a letter or two off the correct name of that particular medication.
The year was 1996, I think. Which would mean that for about the first 10 years of my translating career I somehow got by without any search engine, and without machine translation and CATs too, of course. The smart search engine that impressed me so much in that particular instance was Google, although back then I was also trying various different ones with interesting names like Alta Vista and Northern Lights which no longer exist if I am not mistaken. Pretty soon, Google was it not only for me, but for a lot of my friends and colleagues as well. I remember that for instance another translator’s screen saver twenty years ago in his tiny condo in San Francisco across from Golden Gate Park was already the Google search page.
The little search field that could then seared its presence seemingly permanently into the lives of hundreds of millions of people. For about 17 years, Google was also my default search engine. Namely up until a few months ago, when even before the revelations of Edward Snowden about the completely illegal and criminal spying of the NSA on hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of anything (see the text of Fourth Amendment to US Constitution here), I decided to switch to a different engine, an engine that does not collect any information about its users because it generates revenues only from ads that are based on keywords.
Originally I switched to DuckDuckGo mostly because I found it really annoying and creepy when garish advertisements about any product or service that I happened to Google started jumping at me and were incessantly chasing me on every newspaper and blog site that I was reading for days if not weeks. At the same time I also stopped using my Google mail account because I realized that I don’t really want Google or anybody else to have that much information about me stored so conveniently in one place.
DuckDuckGo is one of several companies that says that it does not to collect any personally identifiable data about its users. I was using it as my default engine for several months, and I still use it sometime because it works very well. But after Edward Snowden’s revelations, I started using Ixquick as my default search engine because unlike DuckDuckGo, it is based in Holland rather than in the United States. I could be wrong but I am assuming that it would be much more difficult, even in these post-constitutional and post-legal times when US agencies are spying on everybody and their grandmother, to force a company located outside United States to hand over all user information.
Apparently, companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, as well as Apple, have been doing it routinely for years.
There is no exception in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution for metadata, or for the magic T-word. Unlike for instance the second amendment, which ties the right of people to bear arms to something called “well regulated militia”, this amendment is very straightforward and very clear.
The purpose of the Constitution is to protect citizens from an abusive government. We, the citizens, really have no representative government any more, as it only represents the interests of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, and Apple, and we are just the dupes who are marched every two years to the voting booth to cast our vote for whoever we think is the lesser of the two evils this time around. At this point, I can’t even tell which of the two evils is lesser. There does not seem to be any difference between them.
But although we have so little power over our government which has so much power over us, we do have power over the seemingly omnipotent corporations which control the government through its lobbyists and their generous contributions to our politicians, because most of the time, we can still go shopping somewhere else.
I am obviously not an intensely private person, as I think nothing of pouring my heart out on my blog at least twice a week. But I do want to have a modicum of privacy back in my life and in my children’s life. I don’t want Big Brother to spy on everything I do online. And unless Google changes the extremely intrusive practices of its business model, I will not set my default search engine back to Google again.