My short story Scroogled has been reprinted on Lithub, as part of the promotion for Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, a forthcoming anthology about surveillance with stories by Etgar Keret, T.C. Boyle, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu and others.
Scroogled is the story of “the day Google became evil” — what happens when a former Googler discovers that his company has been made into an arm of the state.
“Want to tell me about June 1998?”
Greg looked up from his Departures. “I’m sorry?”
“You posted a message to alt.burningman on June 17, 1998, about your plan to attend a festival. You asked, ‘Are shrooms really such a bad idea?’”
The interrogator in the secondary screening room was an older man, so skinny he looked like he’d been carved out of wood. His questions went a lot deeper than shrooms.
“Tell me about your hobbies. Are you into model rocketry?”
“No,” Greg said. “No, I’m not.” He sensed where this was going. The man made a note, did some clicking. “You see, I ask because I see a heavy spike in ads for rocketry supplies showing up alongside your search results and Google mail.”
Greg felt a spasm in his guts. “You’re looking at my searches and email?” He hadn’t touched a keyboard in a month, but he knew what he put into that search bar was likely more revealing than what he told his shrink.
“Sir, calm down, please. No, I’m not looking at your searches,” the man said in a mocking whine. “That would be unconstitutional. We see only the ads that show up when you read your mail and do your searching. I have a brochure explaining it. I’ll give it to you when we’re through here.”