I have wanted to start this blog for a while now, but never really found the time, but since, at the time of writing, the world is currently on hold due to a little virus problem, I am finally getting around to it. So I went ahead, bought the domain and built the basic layout of this blog for the last two evenings and now, on day three, here it comes. The very first post on my personal little corner of the world wide web. But what should it be about? There where many ideas, a guide to setup Nextcloud, a report on the state of mobile Linux OSes, maybe a quick run through the all new Ubuntu 20.04 that will be released the day after I type these words?
I am guessing dear reader (hope there is one) you are starting to see the problem of running a blog. Anyway, I found a topic I deemed to be a good one to start with: Statements I usually get when talking to someone about privacy or the lack of it.
Let them spy on me, I have got nothing to hide.
Personally I think this is the most interesting one. Especially when the I is pronounced in a way that makes the sentence into a question about the things I would have to hide.
But let’s not get carried away and take a look at this argument, at first glance it really looks sound, doesn’t it? So I am going to go ahead and dissect it. First up, grammatically. The time form used here is the so called present. And here we find a tiny little issue don’t we. “Let them spy on me, I will never have anything to hide” is quiet a different proposal. But hey, I am going with it in the present. Nothing to hide, what does that mean. The speaker has never violated even the tiniest law. One of these laws that comes to mind is parking a car. I am going to assume that everyone has parked his or her car on a spot they where not supposed to once in their life and gotten away with that. Yes? Good for you, but did you have your smartphone with you? Also yes? Great, now there is a permanent record of you traffic violation, properly saved and backuped by the big-tech company of you choice. Ever gotten a bit over the speed limit? Ditto.
Not really a big deal though right? Let us assume a different situation. You really never did anything wrong in your live. You are walking down the street, listening to music, maybe got a dog with you, enjoying life. Passing building after building, finally you decide to sit down on a bench in the sun. While you are doing this, someone is breaking into the house you are just leaning against. Please do expect to hear from the police soon, they are going to be interested in what you have been doing there for about 20 minutes that day…
So maybe we could agree on the fact that even if you have nothing to hide, your location profile is something you might want to stay private. Even if you are not associated with a crime. Running the same route every week at the same time? No one at home regularly right? Good opportunity. Or even worse, pretty girl running through a dark street regularly?
But what about that future we so conveniently skipped? Are you going to do something wrong? Likely, but that is not my point here. At the time I am writing this 12 people in Hong Kong have been arrested for being publicly pro democracy. Seeing where I am going here? Maybe you are taking your phone to a weekly discussion group on … what comes to mind … oh yes, let us go abstract, your favorite ice-cream brand. Of course you have your phone with you, there are pictures to be made! Also messages to be sent for planning and so on. But really nothing to worry about. I mean it is ice-cream. One day, after public elections you find that the “we-hate-your-favourite-ice-cream” party has won the election. Likers of that ice-cream are starting to disappear after a couple of months. But you, you were smarter then them, you did not attend the meetups afterwards and you didn’t speak about your favorite flavor any more, so you are safe, right? Sadly you are not, there are pictures of you, likely shared on social media, publicly available, your big-tech of choice decided to better give up data collected on these ice-cream fanatics you belonged to, so they are allowed to continuing sales of their product in that nation, one day you hear a knock on the door and the next thing you remember is a black bag over your head. Please, now replace ice-cream with religion, sexual orientation or political opinion.
Yes, these are very dark scenarios, but these things have happened before, they are happening right now and they will happen in the future. But hey, YOU have nothing to hide, so you are safe…
There is nothing we can do about it anyway
Oh how I love that one.
Really, nothing, not one single thing? Okay, where should I start.
I have been dealing with smartphones very much until now, but let us take a look somewhere else. How about your computer. No, I am not telling you to install Linux, but I am telling you that your browser choice might already be a very easy thing to increase you privacy. There is one browser that dominates the world right now, it is built by a company, that has invasion of privacy as their main business model. Chances are, that browser is not respecting your privacy. But there are others out there. Open-source ones, that might. Maybe try one of them?
Also where are you browsing to? What is you search engine of choice? Do you use the same browser to search for stuff, as you are using for your favorite social media? Every used privacy mode or maybe thought about containerizing tabs? (No ad, but there will be a followup on this one).
There was a new word in there, strange one. Open-source. What is that?
It is something some companies and private projects do, they publish the code, the stuff programs are made of, of their applications so everyone can alter and inspect it. This is a nice thing, because it means you can actually check what that stuff you are putting on you computer is doing. It doesn’t mean that every open-source project has you best interest in mind, but it is mostly a good sign.
So, yes, there is something you can do and these were only the very basics.
Repeating myself here, but there will be a followup.
There is just no alternative to facebook
Would that person have said something like Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, MS Office, Adobe Photosphop or whatever I would have partially agreed. There are cases you don’t get around these. But facebook, really? You have no alternative in life than being a member of that network? And do you also have no alternative than installing their app on your phone? Just asking…
Because frankly, privacy wise, that is one of the worst companies in the world. And their “product” (see what I did there? I will explain their actual product a bit down this text), at least in my opinion, isn’t even worth the struggle. I seeing pictures of your friends food that important? Can’t you live and be productive without it?
Also there are alternatives to facebook. For example there is an app called signal that is pretty much an open source, encrypted not tracking you version of whatsapp. It works the same way user-side, so why not switch to that? Also even nicer, head to duckduckgo.com and search for fediverse, but more on that later
As for the product of facebook. That nice web fronted you are logging into is not facebooks product, facebook produces very accurate profiles of individuals so they can be perfectly targeted with ads to get them to do something, best case buy new socks. Worst case, think manipulation of elections (yeah, that happened too)
Ok, you are right, but it is just so convenient
I will give you that one
You are going on and on about privacy, but you are running a blog under your actual name and address on the internet, what about that?
Oh, yes, shit, deleting blog now…