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I have no further information. It could be true. it could be propaganda. I don't know.



I mention this not for political reasons, but becaue as a writer I frequently conduct oddball research into topics that, to someone who is not into speculative fiction, might look suspicious. Like one of my stories has a visitor from earth who is teaching some people how to build the foudations for a basic industrial society, including basic chemistry.

Thing is, research into basic chemistry nowadays includes looking up things like old text books. But the chemistry text books that you find online that have expired copyright are from the old days... with the *forbidden secrets* in them like how to make home made mustard gas and home made explosives. Of course, anyone who has taken college chemistry already knows that. But try explaining that fact to the average government hack.

It would be simpler if there were a way to research things like ancient egyptian marriage customs, and actual techniques that the Iquisition used, and the procedure for making a flintlock rifle in a primitive forge, without hearing a knock on the door by two grim looking men in ill-fitting suits.

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Member # 9331

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Of *course* Google scans your gmail for keywords. that's how it knows what ads to serve and pay for the service you're using.

Before you use *any* service (not just cloud services), you've got to at least glance through terms of use and the privacy policy. That's why I don't put full drafts of manuscripts on Google Docs. The TOU allows them to do things which count as "publishing", which alters your common law right to control the manuscript.

Google says it does not "read" your mail, but clearly it scans your mail for viruses and mail filters, and to select ads you view when you're reading your email. It remembers the ad selection too so it mines your data. I recently received an email from my wife about the kids' dental appointments, and I am now getting discreet little ads for dental services, even in the inbox screen. That indicates they have tagged me as recently interested in dental services, and if they really wanted to find me by that attribute and poke around in my mail, they have the means. Having managed corporate servers myselfI can tell you that admins having that ability is the rule rather than the exception..

Furthermore Google also explicitly states that it provides law enforcement access to your email to the extent required by law in your country. That's pretty much true of any on-line service; a legally valid subpoena will force them to open their records.

So if you're worried about being put on the watch list for researching bomb recipes, you should take reasonable steps to protect your anonymity -- or rather pseudonymity. Set aside a certain machine and use it from the library or public access points exclusively -- not your home internet connection. This could be a virtual machine (using Virtualbox or VMWare. Make sure you do *nothing* on the research machine that could connect your research to your regular accounts (e.g. use your google or amazon logins). Protect your sensitive communications with encryption.

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Member # 9757

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In other words, act like you live in communist China. Becaue there is no effective difference in terms of dodging government inquisition?

Sadly, I fear you are correct. But even a borrowed computer in a public place can give away information. Couple that with securty camera footage and you are screwed.

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Member # 9757

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BTW, I minored in organic chemistry. I still have all my old college textbooks. (Just kidding milord, just kidding. I burned all of those nasty things years ago. Truly. I would never have reason to keep such a treasonous source of evil information around...)

But in any case, the information is not limited to bombs. Sometimes merely investigating the wrong news story can you you in trouble. Once, i was assigned by my empoyer to take some picture of the industrial developments that were located in a rural area. Some of them just happened to be a couple of oil refineries. You should have seen the crap storm that resulted. I had federal police demanding to know what the hell I was doing performing espionage. Not in those words, but that was the gist of it. I was lucky, I simply referred them to my boss and let him take the ass chewing. But I'm sure that I was put on some kind of list because of that 35mm camera. Oh woe is me.

FYI, I had pulled off onto the shoulder of a public highway to take the pictures. At no point di dI set foot on private property, and at no point did my camera leave my hand.

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