By this stage you are doubtless aware that you are constantly and forever handing valuable data about yourself to our tech services, most notably Google. And you might have wondered what you can do about it – and the answer is that you won’t like it.
Short answer: so many things that we more or less have to use in our day to day life only work if they are sending data back. So suddenly our devices are very expensive bricks.
On the plus side, it’s easy to do things like not hand out home addresses online – getting things posted to Australia Post’s 24/7 parcel lockers means, at best, they know which is your least inconvenient post office.
And there are a number of services which will help delete your online footprint, including hiding your email behind ever-changing proxies and concealing your phone number, but using the relies on handing access to your data over to such services to scrub.
One of the big problems is that Google’s products are increasingly the default option.
And that’s not a huge problem with, say, web browsers – you can choose an alternative to Chrome, like Firefox, and it’ll still have similarly functionality – but it’s not great with things like search.
Put bluntly, something like DuckDuckGo is better in that it doesn’t collect your data – but because of that, it also doesn’t work nearly as well. And there are no easy alternatives for, say, Google Docs. And when you think online video, who do you go to: YouTube, owned by Google, or… what, Vimeo?
(Also, you know that Google and Facebook can still see your data in “incognito mode”, right? Good.)
And while there are other free webmail services – Outlook, Zoho, Mail.com. Yahoo and so on – they don’t have the sorts of additional services Gmail offers. But they are definitely doable.
And make no mistake: your email contents are on Gmail’s servers, and they help determine the ads you see. So… um, hopefully you haven’t written anything you wanted secret, because nothing gives a secret away like suddenly being served ads for pregnancy services, say.
Things get even trickier if you’re trying to hide from Big Data across the board – even if you’re not obscuring your face all the time from the terrifyingly accurate facial recognition software now available.
Obviously having an iPhone is out, or an Android phone. Also, you’ll need to not use services like Uber or Menulog. And obviously you’re saying goodbye to things like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Adieu Spotify, Netflix and Stan, and so long Fitbit.
Similarly, avoiding social media is an obvious necessity if you want data secrecy. However, you can still end up there in other people’s photos – and the slightly creepy thing is that Facebook can still work out that you exist and a lot about you – likely location, age, gender, sexuality, income level – based on your friends without you even having to be on Facebook or Instagram.
It turns out that sure, we’re all marvellous individual snowflakes, but like real snowflakes we’re actually really similar to one another.