Google’s “Total Information Awareness” Power — A one-page graphic of all the information Google has

June 4, 2010

To help you picture both the enormity and unprecedented power of what Google knows about you and the world’s information: public, private and proprietary, I have organized all the world’s information types that Google collects onto a one-page chart/PDF: “Google’s ‘Total Information Awareness’ Power.”

For those who really want to understand Google and its impact on most everyone and most everything, please read and study this one-page chart/PDF, because much valuable work and insight has gone into it.

  • While the chart is visually packed with information that many may find difficult to unpack or digest, the chart itself is an apt metaphor for both how much information Google has, and also how difficult it is for all of us to get our head around all the information Google routinely collects and uses.

A short refresher on where the term “Total Information Awareness” came from and why it is aptly employed here.

  • After 9-11, Admiral John Poindexter, former U.S. National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, proposed to the U.S. Governement that the U.S. intelligence apparatus apply all available surveillance and information technology assets to tracking terrorists. After a public outcry that the Total Information Awareness effort could become a de facto mass surveillance system of the American public that could invade Americans’ privacy without due process, Congress officially defunded the program in 2003.
  • Meanwhile, it is ironic and frightening that Google, a private corporation, has in ten short years, effectively already created the Total Information Awareness capability — worldwide — that some in the U.S. Government sought to create in 2001.
  • It is important to remember that all the information Google has collected and analyzed is potentially available to the U.S. Government via Patriot Act and other powers.
  • It is also important to remember that after Google complained that the Chinese broke into Google’s secure password systems, Google sought out a cyber-security partnership with the National Security Agency, that was reported on the front page of the Washington Post.

The chart is unique and highly instructive in how it shows how Google’s uniquely-pervasive invasion of privacy has given it widespread “permission-less profiling” power, and how Google’s uniquely ubiquitous and comprehensive information collection efforts afford Google “information market power.”

  • Thus Google’s “Total Information Awareness” power comes from the extraordinarily powerful synergy between permission-less profiling and information market power.

In sum, at present there are minimal checks and balances, oversight, or accountability for Google’s unprecedented and unmatched permission-less profiling power and information market power.

  • If this chart does not trouble you, at least some, you are forgetting the old adage and repetitive lessons of history — that unconstrained power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

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