9.6. CAN THEY SNOOP—AND WILL THEY TELL?
They have amassed more information about people in ten years than all the governments of the world put together. They make the Stasi and the KBG look like the innocent old granny next door. This is of immense significance. If someone evil took them over, they could easily become Big Brother.
—Andrew Keen, British-born author, Internet critic, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur
Google freely admits that it collects various sorts of information about users. However, the company says it does not collect personal identifying data such as credit-card information, phone numbers, or buying history—unless a user signs up for a service such as Checkout.
Since Google began emphasizing cloud computing, or individual computing done on Google's own website, its products present even more opportunities to snoop. For example, its Desktop Search indexes a client's entire desktop of files, which means they are then searchable. However, the information is stored on Google's website.
Google warns, "We may share [private] information... [if] we conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public."
Perhaps the most scathing comments on the privacy issue came in a 2004 Mother Jones article:
So the question is not whether Google will always do the right thing—it hasn't and it won't! It's whether ...