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Just as Wal-Mart is the favored quarry of pack-hunting anti-capitalist groups, Google has become Big Brother for privacy advocates.
 
And brother, has Google gotten Big: The 207 million Internet users in the U.S. did 5.1 billion searches in December, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, with most of it via Google.  December is a 31-day month, which makes that (tap, tap, tap) a rate of 1,904 searches per second. Even if you factor out bloggers, that’s still got to be several hundred…
 
But on its way to assimilating the planet, Google has detoured into a PR firestorm of Sony rootkit proportions.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“Defending Freedom in the Digital World”) warns:

San Francisco — Google today announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user’s Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google’s own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user’s computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who’ve obtained a user’s Google password.

Beyond some minor quibbles, EFF’s argument is sound.  This makes you wonder how a feature with such high creepiness index could get signed off on by a sentient management biped. This won’t blow over right away and will likely win the company knee-jerk legislation for its trouble. Probably not what they had in mind.
 
Anyway, maybe Google and Wal-Mart could just coalesce into Google-Mart so every interest group could just hate one entity.

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Mr. Moffat is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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