Here’s the basic point. In the online world, essentially everything we do is always being archived and searched by the companies that provide us access. There was a time when we might have asked whether those companies should be barred from using that behavioural information for commercial purposes, but that ship sailed long ago. The question we’re asking now is whether the government should be allowed to gain access to those private search archives for national security purposes. The government isn’t spying on us; Google is spying on us, and the government is asking Google for certain results.
We need to think coherently about what we find scary here. The problem isn’t so much that we haven’t set up a legal architecture to preserve our online privacy from the government; it’s that we haven’t set up a legal architecture to preserve our online privacy from anyone at all. If we don’t have laws and regulations that create meaningful zones of online privacy from corporations, the attempt to create online privacy from the government will be an absurdity.