man in white shirt looking through large binoculars

It’s interesting to think about who you are as a person, versus who the internet thinks you are.

Who NSA thinks you are.

A friend told me recently he fears Google knows him too well. I said, I don’t think Google knows me at all. He said he is too predictable, that’s why. He told me my wide-ranging interests are probably confusing Google. He may be right.

On the other hand, I bet Google knows my type. And I bet NSA knows my type, if NSA is bothering to investigate me. Which I hope it is not. For you never know what bizarre conclusions someone might draw from glancing at the data you have given to the internet.

For giggles, I looked up my recent search history. It includes innocuous queries like “Travis kelce SNL sketch” and “What did the Neanderthals look like” but also embarrassing queries like “does running cause diarrhea” as well as questionable queries like “bullets explode when heated.” (Apparently, bullets can, but do not always, explode when heated to high enough temperatures. Which I suppose is why they are bullets.)

A quirky 2023 work of nonfiction examines what the vast surveillance apparatus of the U.S. knows, and what it does not know. And what it knows but does not admit that it knows. Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs, by Kerry Howley, is a raucous jaunt through the history of whistleblowers and other nonconformists, with a primary focus on Reality Winner.

Howley writes about you and me and all of us:

“It’s too late, of course; you are already known, though the you that is known is not the you that you are. Willingly you have surrendered many bits of information that, taken together, form a sclerotic social identity with a strange relation to the real. Surveillance finds truths, and surveillance serves the creation of elaborate untruths.”

Howley illustrates this again and again in her examination of Americans who have been under investigation. She does not take a stand on whether the Americans should have done what they did; I appreciated this objectivity. She leaves a wide latitude for readers to make up their own minds. And by the way—she’s a fabulously entertaining writer.

If you use Google as your search engine, go to, click on your photo, and click Manage your Google Account. Click Data & privacy. Scroll down and click My Activity. Click Filter by date & product and select Search.

What’s in your recent search history?