Today, June 18, one of my institutional e-mail accounts, edn13, migrated to Gmail, adding yet another cognitive part of my life to my Google file.
Google employees already know a lot of details about me because I already have several Gmail accounts, each with a different password for different needs. I write to my legal research students by using firstname.lastname@example.org account –cls stands for my law school. E-mails about my satirical website come to a different Gmail account. I also have a general account where I store all emails that I consider worthy of archiving. So when another piece of my life, the one labeled edn13 comes to Google it goes without saying that it should not bother me. And, in fact, I do not mind it at all. When I think about its meaning I feel no shivers of anger but shivers of comfort, because it is relaxing to realize that someone has as complete a profile as possible, and that it is all in one place. The beauty of centralization — be it governmental or mere private monopoly — is that were I in need of some small detail about myself, something which would explain what made me myself, I could just make one contact call. Imagine the pain I could have faced before the advent of Google even with such innocuous questions:
Hey, Dana, do you still have your mother’s recipe for pancakes? I loved the pancakes with strawberry jam that you made the morning before yesterday. Do you remember? When we sat down at your mahogany-made breakfast table which resembles a desk more than a kitchen table, but there is no account for taste… Do you still have it?
Under ordinary circumstances, such a conversation would have been embarrassing, because I do not collect recipes. I would have lied and said:
Of course. How can you think otherwise? Wait a second and I’ll find her email, because mom always calls and emails me her important, private thoughts.
If the person conducting this conversation with me would have been a Romanian, let’s say, I would have even joked about our common past:
Now, wait a second without moving an inch, because I do not want our Verizon connection to drop out on us. Yes, I can hear you very well. By the way, could you imagine if we had had this conversation under Ceausescu, and his blue-eyed informers would have listened on us and have tried to record and translate our conversation simultaneously, as if they were UN translators?
We would have laughed, and laughed, and then laughed a bit more. Just the comparison between the well educated UN translators and the boys and girls working for the Romanian KGB-counterpart is so funny.
Luckily, I live in a democratic country now, the United States, and I do not have to worry about who listens to phone calls surreptitiously. Even better, I do not have to worry about losing any pancake recipe either, because Google offers storage place for all one’s needs and I voluntarily use Google docs to create documents, and then I store them on the Google cloud. Not that I am bragging, but I use only Chrome and the Chrome note book so everything I do is known to Google and its people. They and I know everything about my life. My family does not know as much as Google knows. I hope they keep everything organized and have hired indexers to label all the information they must have amassed correctly. Because it is comforting to know there is some order in this world. Imagine, if I were to lose my recipe, my imaginary friend could say:
Dana, I’m not kidding, contact someone at Google. .. They must have it somewhere in their digital cloud, otherwise, why would they entice you with their storage ability?
Luckily, I am a loyal customer, and I do not have any Yahoo email accounts, for instance. Otherwise, the sheer number of passwords I would need would be too daunting. Mine are all with Google – I mean Gmail. Certainly, I end up using SMS when I text my closest family members and friends. Certainly, sometime I delete their SMS and I feel uncomfortable had they needed to get back a message they sent me by mistake, let’s say, but again, I am lucky because I moved away from the dark side to the technologically advanced side, from a former Soviet mignon to the Soviet destroyer, the USA.
When I thought things could not get any better for me and the 78% of Americans like me, life, or more correctly, The Guardian, an English newspaper, proved me wrong. On June 5, The Guardian published that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act, a statute which gives meaning to American patriotism, to obtain a secret warrant that forced Verizon telephone company to transmit all the data they had about every single call or SMS that had passed through its system to those two federal agencies. Now, finally, we can talk about archival techniques better than the ones the Mormons use to track down everybody’s ancestors!
Certainly, one may fear that some of their SMS may not deserve archiving, such as:
I have a cold. Stop. Shall I get some “aspirin” from DuaneReade or from the dude in Washington Square? Stop.
Perhaps not the best use of my taxpayer money, but, like over 78% of Americans I do believe there are larger reasons at work and I should not make trouble. First, what trouble could I make as a mere nearsighted New Yorker? Then, I do not need aspirins as I never catch colds. Finally, I find the words of President Obama– in a slip of the tongue I almost wrote Ceausescu – reassuring, when he said:
Dear fellow citizens, do not be afraid, the government defends you against terrorism of any kind, trust us.
I do not want to think about terrorism, so I won’t. From where I stand a FOIA request will always give me access to old bank account passwords, old lovers’ sweet words, and stuff like that which makes memories so valuable. Briefly, I’m content or perhaps just reassured that no matter how lonely I may feel one day, or no matter how private my thoughts would be, I will never be alone. I am just a bubble in a large Russian bath house.
Or maybe this is all too shortsighted of me?