Relatively few news organizations I’ve dealt with in recent years shield themselves from Google: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico,NPR, NBC News, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera, the BBC, Reuters, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today andBreitbart. Sometimes, though, such organizations still facilitate Google’s surveillance. ProPublica, for example, which does not share its emails with Google, embeds Google services on its web pages – Google Analytics, AdSense, and Google Maps. As ProPublicaacknowledges, this allows Google to track visitors to its site, but the innocent-sounding disclosure fails to note, unfortunately, that the tracking occurs without anyone’s knowledge or consent. Why does ProPublica, which prides itself on having “no hidden agendas,” allow its website to be used for clandestine surveillance?
Then there are those mindless media professionals, such as the producers who contacted me from Frontline and PBS NewsHour or the editor who wrote to me from Fast Company, who don’t even bother using their corporate email systems; they just use gmail, apparently not giving the matter a second thought.
Worse still is how easy Google makes it for people to link their personal gmail accounts to their business accounts in a way that allows them to “send mail as that address.” When this happens, as I learned when I received an email from a Cornell University address, you see an institutional email address on the sender’s email (cornell.edu), but the emails are routing through Google servers – even though the institution itself has not authorized the linking. It’s not inconceivable that millions of people have linked their Google accounts to their business accounts in this way, feeding Google’s insatiable appetite for data under the imprimaturs of thousands of unsuspecting organizations.