Here’s a new twist on an old feature here at The Sarcastic Muse: Inquiring Minds. This time, I want to know.
We writers joke about our Google searches. Though someone in a secret bunker somewhere might raise an eyebrow at some romance genre searches, it’s the thriller and international crime writers that interest me most. My inquiry has several parts.
First, do you think the government is actively watching based on keywords, times visited, or length of time spent on sites for some optics? How active are they? What lands a person on the proverbial watch list?
Second, is anyone actually worried that a government employee might see their search history? (I worry more about my family as I’ve been researching the psychology of killers for years.)
And third, which is probably the heart of my question, do the alphabet agencies care about name, ethnicity, or other profiling data? If my parents immigrated from Serbia or my dad still writes to his cousins in North Korea, Afghanistan, or <insert geopolitical hot spot here>, or my brother took a new name when he converted to Islam, does that make the watchers watch more closely? What about ex-pats living in hot spots around the world? An average middle-class person who doesn’t hold a passport probably doesn’t worry too much.
But what about the rest of the world? Terrorism in all forms has become an increasing part of our lives, and, by extension, our fiction. Whether we need to know the blast radius of a pipe bomb, the epidemiology of an anthrax outbreak, what the FBI play book says about dealing with militia groups, etc, writers turn to Google. How concerned are writers in general? How concerned are writers with even casual ties to people or places the government is watching for?
This inquiring mind wants to know.
Comments are open to everyone. We can’t learn if we don’t ask.
No, I don’t worry too much about the government examining my search history. Based on the advertisements I receive, Google is already doing a fine job of that.
However, the idea that the government is watching the Internet based on keywords is intriguing. I work hard at trying to get readers for my Internet presence. And now I’m wondering if I can gather some more readers simply by working in a few “keywords”.
Thank you! I was running out of “reasons” for not working on my current story today.
A Hui Hou,
I don’t so much worry about that as amuse myself by imagining the hidden watcher’s reaction to my searching of things like “has anyone written about the stripes of genetically engineered sunflower seeds form a code before”. If anyone does read my search history, I imagine they’re convinced I am a near-harmless nutcase.