More than 380 million people visited Web sites owned by Google and Yahoo in an average month in 2013 [source: Wohlsen]. Every e-mail sent through Gmail, every spreadsheet saved in Google Docs and every chat conversation held on Yahoo Messenger is stored in "the cloud," a global network of servers and data centers. You might assume that all of this private information and personal data is encrypted and protected from prying eyes. But now we know better.
Thanks to the leaked revelations of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, we learned that the U.S. intelligence agency is actively sifting through e-mails, search histories and phone records of millions of innocent people, looking for potential terrorist activity. As part of a secret program called PRISM, the NSA won court approval to force companies like Google and Yahoo to turn over records on foreign Web users. If that wasn't enough, the NSA also secretly tapped into Google and Yahoo's cloud servers without the companies' knowledge or approval [source: Peterson]. Critics call it blatantly unconstitutional to submit every unwitting Web user to blanket surveillance.
As scary as it is, you should assume that all your online activities are being collected by someone, whether it's your Internet provider, Google or a secret government spying program. Sleep tight and don't let Big Brother bite!