Back in the day when Google was first establishing its empire - and wasn't the household name we know it to be now - I remember setting up my first gmail account.
A friend had introduced me to it as I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with Microsoft. To be honest, I knew very little about Google, nor was I aware of the ground-breaking technology that was at the foundation of their service.
All I knew is that I needed a referral link from a friend or family member in order to establish my own account. Seemed straightforward enough.
But then, with a simple Internet search (through Google, no less), results began appearing about how "creepy" the service was in compiling a record of each and every search, every email - including metadata.
According to these alarmist headlines, the advent of Google and its wide-ranging data collection was a guaranteed privacy nightmare, which would pander to an increasingly prominent surveillance state around the world.
My thought at the time?
Whoever's writing these articles is seriously paranoid. After all, if you're not doing anything wrong, why worry if they have a record of your emails and online activity spanning decades.
Over the years, as I've learned more about the dangers of widespread surveillance and the mass collection of data on the population - along with its far reaching ramifications - I've come to realize those early 'alarmists' weren't far off.
Actually, they may have greatly underestimated the situation we find ourselves in today.
Follow the Money
Bhavani Thuraisingham noted in this document that from 1993 to 1999,
With the intention of developing,
...the MDDS program funded 15 research projects at several different universities, including Stanford.
During the Annual Intelligence Community Symposium in 1995, an abstract presented by the MDDS program lists the main sponsors of the program are none other than,
...which operates under the Director of Central Intelligence.
This isn't the first time U.S. intelligence has funded America's top scientists:
The Internet itself was made possible because of intelligence support in the 1970s, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - an agency within the United States Department of Defense that's responsible for developing new technologies to be used by the military - connected four supercomputers for the purpose of managing large data transfers.
The agency then handed off its operations to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which in turn spread the network through thousands of universities, and, ultimately, to the public.
However, in the 1990s, military and intelligence budgets weren't able to keep up with technological advances.
But the Clinton administration saw an opportunity to fund these projects through the private sector - which had vast resources at their disposal. If U.S. intelligence wanted to conduct mass surveillance, it would need the help of universities and supercomputing companies.
With the MDDS grant, Google was born - and surpassed the wildest dreams of the intelligence community.
Here was a network system that could organize information to a high degree and track like-minded groups of people across the Internet, identifying them by their digital fingerprints.
Patterns could be spotted in this new sea of information, which would hopefully lead to the identification and tracking of terrorists virtually.
But there's a catch.
In other words, we're paying through our own tax dollars to be spied upon - and guilty until proven innocent.
As technology and the convenience it brings become increasingly prominent in our daily lives, we would be wise to ask: