A Reuters article by Dustin Volz offers a good reminder about the nature of the Internet:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual’s complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows.
The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.
Scott Shackford has posted a sample letter on Reason. The government’s requests for this information — and the gag orders that it imposes on the Internet service providers that hand it over — are significant most of all because they illustrate that this data is out there.
What you search for online, what you look at in online stores, what ebooks you read, what Netflix movies you watch (including where you stop, pause, and rewatch, probably)… all of this information is out there. Imagine a spy following you around everywhere and noting everything you say and do. Sure, the likelihood is that the notes will simply disappear into a sea of similar information, but they’re there, and if people with access ever have a reason to review it, the recall is instantaneous.
It’s healthy to disconnect from the Internet for health, psychological, sociological, and spiritual reasons, but privacy should be factored in there, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find.
Once in a while, it’s nice to take some cash out at the bank, drive an older car to the book store, pick up a subversive book, and bring it home to read just to know that nobody knows you own it… at least until face-recognition software is perfected.