Wearing dice on my head since 2008 Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart. Randomly amazed.

Online Privacy

· by roy · Read in about 4 min · (642 Words)
Categories: Tech Life | Tags:

I must admit being a bit unconcerned with online privacy tracking by the large vendoers (Google, Facebook, etc). I mean, I do tend to use my real name as username after all, so most everything I do online can be traced back to me. I assume that anything I do on the internet can be figured out by other parties, so if something is important enough to me that it should be kept private, it shouldn’t go on the internet at all.

For the services provided by Facebook and Google, I accept that they require tracking my data in order to provide those services. For example, a few months ago I made a Protonmail account so I’d have a secure email that I can use in place of GMail. But it turns out, I haven’t found a good use case for it yet. I use Gmail’s search a lot, and ProtonMail is nowhere that robust. Maybe if I were a spy or something, I would consider using ProtonMail, but for now I think for everyday usage the GMail features are an acceptable tradeoff for the fact that they are reading your email data and using it for targetted advertising.

I also tried using the alternative, privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, but I was not too happy with the search results I was getting, and I occasionally find it useful to be able to check my search history for stuff I remember finding but could no longer find. Having my search results tailored for me turned out kind of useful too.

Reading some forum discussions, there are a lot of people who are vehemently against being tracked for the purposes of targetted advertising. I can understand the sentiment, but personally I don’t mind targetted advertising because (a) it’s marginally better than being bombarded with ads for things you don’t actually care about; and (b) I am not easily susceptible to impulse purchases, at least not due to internet ads. I grew up with the free internet, so even if I wasn’t using adblock, my brain automatically ignores ads on its own.

To be honest, I accept that these companies are tracking my data because I would track my own data if I could. I find it useful to have my own history. An example is location history; I have my phone GPS on all the time, so Google Maps is able to keep a history of where I’ve gone everyday. I reference this every so often, because I’m forgetful. “Where did I go last Wednesday?” is a trivial question to answer when the cloud has the data. As a software developer, I could build my own systems to track this myself, but why bother? I use the cloud as an extension of my own memory, which is often fallible.

I have been starting to wean myself off Facebook, though that proves difficult due to network effects. But it would probably be more difficult for me to cease usage of my Google account, since I use it for a bunch of cloud stuff. Well, I did get it started by making Firefox my main browser.

I do understand the use case for privacy. If you’re handling any sort of sensitive information or anything dangerous, say as an investigative journalist in a fascist regime, then maybe an extra level of protection is required. So I appreciate the existence of secure alternatives. I recently found a reddit thread that had a good summary of the modern online privacy options available. If you want or need online privacy, you have to understand that there’s a tradeoff in terms of convenience. You can give up Google or Facebook services or use Tor and VPNs and all those other stuff, but you lose some features too. And maybe that’s fine, it’s up to you to determine that’s acceptable for you.