This page looks best with JavaScript enabled

Online Privacy - a rant

 ·  🕒 5 min read

Something I value on the Internet is privacy. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t install any third-party tracking software on this website.

Yet, I feel like I keep struggling to follow tactics to preserve MY data online. There’s always something that prevents me from achieving this goal of mine.

This post is a simple and frank rant about 21st-century data centrality.

Struggling with browsers

I jumped from browser to browser, every time with a new concern.

From Opera storing information in their logs and being part of a Chinese consortium, to Brave playing with crypto and selling hopes and dreams together with a good dose of spammed ads.

There was always a different ‘ugly’ situation. As I reference I also used:

  • Chrome - owned by Google and ditched because of that
  • Edge - same reason as Chrome but because Microsoft’s ownership
  • Vivaldi - no particular reason to leave it, honestly; I just did
  • Opera GX - is just a weird offspring of Opera
  • Tor Project - slow and not made for daily browsing

At the end of the day, I went for the good old Firefox. Also, because of the recent update involving cross-site cookies. The browser is fast, there are plenty of extensions, and it has great security and privacy features. Hopefully, I won’t find a way to run from it.

My only problem with Firefox is the fact it does not support tab grouping by default, and I have the same tendency to open hundreds of tabs for no reason. I think this is a good reason to change this bad habit of mine.

VPNs

When I browse I’m always connected to a VPN, I don’t want to have my IP trackable all around the Web, nor do I want to have suggestions and stuff based on my region. Aggressive marketing is something I want to avoid as much as I can, screw you and your mental strategies. In addition to that, VPNs usually filter out other nocive services lurking around websites, such as various trackers and profiling tools.

Moreover, by using a VPN I can skip having my traffic go through my ISP, keeping my searches to myself. I could be looking at a simple Wikipedia page, or, on the other hand, I could be watching some hardcore porn - I don’t care what I’m doing, I don’t want searches to go through my ISP.

Still, one of the problems with VPNs is you’re trusting another third-party company with your data. Depending on which VPN service you’re using, they could be storing logs and other data about how you use the service, practically reducing your privacy.

Search Engines

Here comes another painful part of my Internet life, choosing a search engine. Like anybody else, I’ve been using Google for quite some time. At least until I got sick of hearing about their dirty marketing strategies and decided to move away from it.

Since then, I always used DuckDuckGo. However, there’ve been controversies about it as well… Recently they got under the spotlight for allowing Microsoft’s trackers.

Another thing I don’t like about DuckDuckGo is its jurisdiction, which is the United States. I honestly don’t trust the US with my data, and I never will. If I can choose, I’d go with Switzerland, or more generally the EU, because of their laws regarding privacy and data retention. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s always better than the alternatives.

I recently started using Startpage.com, a privacy-oriented search engine based in the Netherlands. The Netherlands got some great privacy laws, and, in addition to EU laws, I trust this more than any American service already. Let’s see how this goes.

Emails, Drive, and Calendars

This is probably where I struggle the most. I started using Proton services, I like them (they recently modernized visuals as well) and they’re based in Switzerland. Yet, mostly because of work, I use Google services, such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar. This means I’m stuck with them at least in one way.

I’m planning to move all my communication to Proton at least. I’ll see how it goes. For now, I will have to rely on Google services until I can migrate.

Social Networks

I hate social networks, for different reasons.

  • People show themselves as somebody they’re not, or they don’t need to be.
  • Hate and ignorance are the norms
  • Socials spam you with emails if you don’t interact with them, they need YOU
  • And the ultimate reason I stopped using most of them: aggressive marketing with personal data

As you may have noticed, I said I stopped using ‘most of them. Because, sadly, there are still socials I depend on. For example, Whatsapp. Friends, family, and even my job get me stuck to it. There are better alternatives, but people follow trends, and habits are hard to die.

One great example of how socials could and probably should be is Mastodon, an OpenSource and decentralized social. I never really used it since I don’t like social altogether, nonetheless, this project attracts my curiosity.

A conclusion

As previously stated, this was some kind of rant. I feel like it’s almost impossible to preserve my privacy on the Internet.
I know there’s data about my job and such on the Web, but that’s because I decided to share it. Same thing for my blog posts containing my ideas and opinions.

What I don’t like a bit, is being aware my data can be used for marketing and unwanted analytics. Furthermore, every year lots of companies fall victim to hacker attacks, and stolen data is our data. Data is the most crucial piece of information someone can have in the 21st century. Why would I want greedy companies to make money on my person?

I didn’t talk about security in this post, I do use a password manager (bitwarden - opensource), MFA, and such strategies. For the sake of this rhetoric, I skipped it. That doesn’t mean it’s not a concern of mine as well. It surely is, and passwords for instance are another level of ‘Web stress’.

In the future, hopefully, people will raise awareness on this matter. Only when something like this happens, we can start effectively fighting corporates using our data as exchange goods.