I am not a product

Warning: Extremely geeky post follows:

Today, most people have their digital life stored on online servers from various companies. Think Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Instagram and many others. You uploaded your pictures, your music, your daily ramblings, happy and sad thoughts. You use these services to share with others, to send and receive emails, store address books, play music and video, have your files available on any device you want. All great features, no doubt! When your phone breaks, just having to log in to the new one to find all your pictures, contacts and other settings is an amazing and reassuring capability brought by these services, often (perhaps incorrectly) called ‘the cloud’.

But you might wonder: “Where is this data? Who has access to it?[1]

I’ve gotten getting sick and tired of being a product. I’ve also gotten tired of not having control of my own information & data. Due to this I’ve started moving everything – and I mean everything – under my own control. This includes but is not limited to: file sharing, RSS reading, email hosting, password management, note taking & link archiving.

The first thing I did was make sure I took what steps I could to not be tracked & started using an ad blocker I trusted.

Next, I stopped using Google. Really… people… stop. Switch to DuckDuckGo for search & find other places/ways to get your mail. It’s pretty simple and it’s an easy first big step in taking your privacy & rights back.

One of the important things I thought about was that when I “post” something to a social network, what happens what that social network decides they didn’t like what I posted, or that what I posted wasn’t appropriate. It’s lost, that’s what happens. Poof, gone. So, the first thing I did was setup a website to be the canonical source of data for myself (jeraimee.com). This was pretty simple and with some WordPress hacking and some plugin modifications I got myself a central source to post information then share it with the networks I want to share it with.

Next I took a look at the trust and power I was giving other 3rd parties: Dropbox, Apple, 1Password, Evernote, etc. Any or all of these services could decide to wipe my data at any time – or worse – share my data with someone without my permission. While I like the products some of these companies produce I want assurances they can’t give me. And lets face it, we can’t trust our own government – why should we trust a random company that sees us as a product? I found ownCloud & some ownCloud apps that cover most every need. Some aren’t perfect but are pretty doggone close. Lucky for me I can hack and know how to use Github and submit pull requests. Now I have my file sharing, document sharing, photo sharing, contacts, calendar, RSS reader, bookmarks, notes & passwords all back under my control.

The last two big items on my list were pretty geeky (compared to the prior content of this post, this is really geeky, seriously…): DNS & email. Was I willing to host my own DNS & email again after years and years of knowing better than to do this myself? I guess I was. I’m now also hosting my own mail server again. DNS is another issue altogether and I’m not quite willing to give up CloudFlare yet.

So far so good. I’m feeling a lot more in control now. The next big steps are to modify all my devices to use my personal sources for synced data (calendar, contacts, notes, etc.) rather than Apples iCloud.

As you can see this is no small undertaking. Some steps were easier than others (do not track, search engine & email for example). I understand that not everyone feels the same way I do and I also understand that even if you do feel the way I do you may not have the means to do what I’m doing. If there’s anything I can do to help please let me know.