Something I’ve been meaning to write, for some time now, is the kind of tinkerers guide to Internet focusing on complete software independence in a world almost completely dominated by large platforms.
While this guide will point to specific examples of software, it is entirely possible (and expected) that you experiment around and find the best one to suit your needs. While I will not guarantee you will like every software I reference, I have personally used each one in my quest to take back as much control over my data and digital life as possible. I hope this can act as a reference for those who are just starting out and aren’t exactly sure where to start.
First I would like to congratulate you. By looking up ways to take back control from the software giants you have taken the first big step in digital freedom. This is by no means a small task and is made intentionally harder and harder to achieve as companies work to integrate many of the platforms we use every day into the devices we use. From the phone in your pocket to the desktop, or laptop in your room. Every device that you use can be abused by the platforms in order to market and sell you, more specifically, your usage habits, communications, contacts, even the types of things you search on Google are all fair game. It’s what you signed up for when you agreed to the terms of service, remember that wall of text that nobody reads? Yeah that one. In it, companies have given them the legal footing required in order to collect, sell, and categorize you in order to make money off the services they provide to you for free. As you may have heard before, if you’re not paying for it you’re the product.
So now you want out, but these companies aren’t about to let their best money maker walk briskly out the door, no no no. They have gone ahead and built an entire ecosystem of products designed specifically to lock you in. Why? Because people hate change. They know you are used to doing things a certain way, and as long as they continue to provide that same experience and keep things updated, secure, and consistently moving forward then they will invest all the resources they need in order to keep you coming back.
When I say “Email” what is the first thing to come to mind? If you answered Gmail, congratulations! You have successfully played right into Google’s hands. By associating email with Gmail they have captured an audience of literally billions of Internet users who rely entirely on Google every day to deliver their emails. Over 2,791,675 emails are sent in a single second (credit Internet Live Stats accessed 4/20/19). That is a lot of data! Granted not every single email is sent from Gmail but I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that Google is responsible for a large portion of that traffic. Businesses and even schools (both K-12 and Higher education) are becoming more and more reliant on Gmail to handle their emails. That number continues to grow as more and more places shut down their own email servers in favor of allowing Gmail to become the de-facto standard. It’s no surprise ether, Gmail is what people are most familiar with and have completely absolved themselves of the burdens that come with maintaining their own email servers. By paying Google to do it for them, they become unwitting co-conspirators in their loss of privacy.
So now that we have analysed that one together can you begin to see the pattern in any other platforms? I shouldn’t even have to mention Facebook as another one of those large platforms that have gone to great lengths in order to turn a profit from user-generated data. The now regular scandals Facebook has found itself stuck in is just one example of a company who’s completely disregard for user privacy has put every single one of us at risk. In one way or another, Facebook has both legally and illegally obtained information on people both on and off of it’s social media platform and continues to be one of the most frequently cited cases of what can happen when a company that big is allowed to operate largely unchecked by competition, or data privacy laws and regulations.
With every new hack, leak, virus that comes out, we find ourselves becoming less and less concerned about who has access to our data and unfortunately this has only allowed these companies to justify their reckless handling of our data. They feel no remorse and as Facebook has shown time and time again, will make empty promises and put on a show saying how they have learned from their mistakes and will do better next time only to have a new story come out a few months later.
This is unacceptable.
If you, like me, are fed up with the status quo and want to take back control of your data from these companies you are going to have to fight fire with fire and show these companies that you are not going to allow them to collect a profit off your data. You will not allow them to continue treating you like a product. You are a human being. You have the right to privacy, and it’s about time you stood up to these big corporations and use them.
In my next post I will be putting together software I’ve come across and use that have helped me in taking back control. I encourage you to attempt to replace at least one platform. Even if it means one less thing these businesses have of yours that they will be able to sell. Every little bit we take back, the less data they have to profit from.