New leak tells us what we already knew: Google is evil

From an NSA presentation leaked by Edward Snowden

Bloggers at the Washington Post have reported on an important new leak by Edward Snowden. This one reveals that the National Security Agency uses Google cookies to identify and target computers on the Internet. This should surprise no one, but we need all the information we can get on how elites snoop on us.

What the leak reveals is that the NSA uses Google’s PREFID cookies to identify and track computers on the Internet. So what is a PREFID cookie and how does it work?

When you sign in to any Google service (such as Google mail), Google knows who you are. They assign your browser a PREFID cookie. This cookie reveals your identity to any site on the Internet that references the cookie and wants to track you. This tracking is not anonymous. Google knows who you are, and there is nothing to stop them from sharing your information.

How much does Google know about you? What did you tell them when you signed up for Google mail? You probably also gave them your cell phone number, right? In addition to the personal information you’ve given Google when you filled out their sign-up forms, Google has tracked you and captured and stored your Internet browsing history, which they have mapped to your real name and real identity. The Snowden leak does not reveal whether Google shares its identifying information with the NSA, but we’d be fools not to assume that they do.

It shocks me sometimes how revelations like this don’t disturb a lot of people. I think the assumption is that, because they’re doing nothing wrong or illegal, all this tracking doesn’t matter. But remember, this information is saved in Google’s (and the NSA’s) vast databases. Like a credit history, it will be used against you for years, perhaps for your entire life. When this secret information about you is sold or shared, you won’t know about it. Unlike credit histories, there are no laws that permit you to know what information about you is kept in these databases or that would permit you to challenge errors. There is nothing from stopping a company like Google from selling this information about you to anyone who wants it — a potential employer, for example, or to private investigators. If you’re ever involved in a lawsuit or a legal scrape, you can be sure that they’ll check your Internet history.

So what can you do? Don’t use Google mail! Don’t use Yahoo mail either. If you insist on using any of Google’s or Yahoo’s services that require you to sign in, then don’t stay signed in, and work out a means of keeping your cookies cleared. One solution, if you insist on using Google mail, would be to have two browsers on your computer. Use Firefox, say, for email only. Use a second browser, Chrome maybe, for all your browsing, and don’t sign in anywhere in this browser. Load up Chrome with all the essential privacy extensions — Ghostery, DoNotTrackMe, Flashblock, Referer Control, Facebook Disconnect, AdBlock, etc. Yes, some of these extensions will make your browser less convenient, but that’s the cost of greater privacy and security.

It’s ironic that Google Chrome, as far as I can determine at present, can be configured as the most secure browser. This is not a Google virtue, it’s that there are a lot of good privacy extensions available for Chrome. Here’s a DuckDuckGo link to get you started.

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