Well, what started out as simply desire to use my old Nokia RAZR to limit the influence of social media, tracking and all the invasive aspects of the internet has become one of privacy and reducing the influence of the internet in my life.
As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t really enjoying the internet anymore. This sounds like a silly thing to say and it is mostly my fault because I was visiting the same websites, doing the same social media and everything felt stagnant. Also, within the past couple months I’ve learned how little control over my data I actually have; this was underlined by Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before congress. And so I dug into this a little more and learned that Facebook is bad, but Google is much worse.
Yes, they offer great services but in return you basically have to let them know everything about you whether you want them to or not. Yes, there are settings you can configure but they are able to collect data on you in mind boggling ways and the uses for that information are pretty much endless. Yes, they say it is for advertising but given how companies and the government operates these days it will most certainly be abused as it was this past election. The only reason that came to light is it affected a major political party and election. If it didn’t then it would be business as usual as profits are greater than people in current society.
I remember when the internet first went mainstream everyone was paranoid to put pictures of the kids on the internet because of all the ‘pedophiles’ out there. Now, it is impossible to stop the majority of society from posting daily pictures of themselves, their kids and everything else! We’re now all being tracked in ways that would have horrified our society not more than twenty years ago. And everyone is just fine with it because they really don’t understand what is going on.
We’re supposed to ‘trust’ Google, Facebook and the government but they’ve shown time and time again they’re definitely not trustworthy. The Cambridge Analytical caused a fire but now Congress has done their posturing and now things will go back to business as usual.
So what will I do about this? Well, you cannot stop the way the world is going: data collection and tracking are how the world works now. There can be protests, maybe some light legislation, some slick campaigns from the company PR and a few adjustments made but it cannot be stopped. We don’t yet know or can even fathom where this will all lead but I’m quite certain it won’t be positive for society as a whole. The only thing it will be positive for is company profits and subsequent campaign contributions.
So do I put on a tin foil hat? No, I use all of this as a project to restart the way I use the internet and the effect it has on my life as a whole. I look for ways to limit tracking while also simply using the internet less. I’ll take time away from the internet and put it into living my life in ‘the real world.’ Instead of the internet and social media controlling me, I’ll learn about ways to control it as much as possible. The internet has become something that we as a people use so much as something that uses us.
So what steps will I take? Well, I’ve outlined what I’ve done with general searching and internet browsing by using FireFox with an array of plugins I outlined in this post. The next step is retaking the control of data collected on me by my mobile. I’m hoping Motorola will come out with a new RAZR and have learned it will run on Android. The benefits of some services such as Google Maps outweigh the privacy concerns so I’ll leave that as is. However, I’ll simply stop using many apps and only install those that I can no longer live without such as Google Maps.
I have my own server for websites (this very blog) and retain the lions share of my personal data in an encrypted folder and backed up folder so I’m good there.
I almost forgot to mention that I cannot delete Facebook entirely because it has become my only connection to many friends I’ve made all over the world. So, I’ll adjust some settings (which I’m aware won’t do too much) and simply stop using it unless I’d like to meet up in real life with a few friends or simply check in to see what they are up to. One smart move I did make many years ago is that my Facebook and Google accounts are not under my real name. This privacy thing flared its ugly head many years ago and so I decided to have an internet “Nom de plume (guerre?)” for all the internet sites I use: Facebook, Google, Instagram, Yelp, Twitter and so on. This does help somewhat but with two factor ID they have my real number and my real number can be tracked to me so its not like the NSA or any local police couldn’t find me. I do have a Google voice number as well I sometimes use such as on resumes so the HR cannot just look me up by a telephone number. I should think about switching all of the two-factor stuff to the Google Voice number but have been lazy (and not concerned about privacy to that degree). However, I might do so now that privacy issues is a fun project for me.
It is not that I’m overly concerned about privacy since it has become an issue for the entire world pretty much. The excitement I feel is one of retooling how I use the internet and makes me think of the days when the internet was new and exciting. I’ll use it the way I want to and not the other way around.
Side Note: In regards to trust, I read a post on Reddit: What are some of the creepiest declassified documents made to the public (link). It really drives home how the government is not to be trusted. Again, not a tinfoil hat sort of thing as that is a big statement but the revelations drive home the feeling that like Facebook and Google, we’re all just pawns to be used to enrich those in control (whoever they may be – Illuminati anyone?)