When exactly did it start? When did we start to refuse to accept the responsibility for our own data? How can it be that we are storing our digital selfs and our most valuable digital assets on other peoples storage devices? When exactly did we surrender our digital liberties in the name of convenience?
I was meeting a business colleague the other day. While we were talking I wanted to show a web page I recently discovered but I didn’t bookmark it on my laptop. While I was trying to find it again using Google search, my colleague laughed:
“Why don’t you link your browser with your Google account? Much more convenient.”
Well – I could have told him that I don’t entrust other people with data that is important to me. I could have told him about what providers learn from your bookmarks, browsing history and related data, but I knew he just wouldn’t understand. And I wondered: How can we claim to be free people if we don’t don’t care about our “digital self” ?
Why are we fighting government intrusion in our private life if we are willingly share all information about it with Google, Microsoft, Apple or others?
Most of us own mobile spying devices and carry it around each day. We give big business and the government access to our locations 24/7. It’s easy to interpolate our favorite super market, gas station, if and what religious buildings we’re visiting. Even the color of our skin and some indication of our wealth can be derived from the places we visit. People don’t have a problem with this and happily add more and more devices to give those providers even more and better information.
OK Google, what do you know about me?
Personal assistants like “Siri”, Amazon’s Echo or Google’s voice assistant are intelligence simulators that may be amusing (for a while), but they are also data collection inlets for big databases. As are other “intelligent” devices connected to the cloud: thermostats, cameras, light switches and more. Every click, switch and video is analyzed and recorded, everything adds to the collection of data available to anybody willing to pay. Add Facebook and other social networks and that database about you and everybody else gets big and fat.
The government has to adhere to laws. Private business? Yeah. Right.
Now – on top of all this, people “linking” their browser information to Google, Apple are throwing even more intimate details of their life into the loving arms of their chosen data collection kraken. Why on earth would anybody do that?
Well – it’s convenient.
Big business couldn’t be happier. They want you to store everything in their clouds. Your email is most likely already there. Your ebooks? Sure. Your music and videos? Of course. Your personal snapshots? Absolutely. Everything is available everywhere. For you to access. For you and anybody else.
Even the free software community has surrendered. Who has software that easily allows you to sync your phone, web browser or other data on your own server? That makes you independent from big cloud providers and returns your liberty? Where are the geeks that create free software solutions for “intelligent” devices, voice assistants or “Internet of things” units? Some try – but most fail. Because the big providers remove the necessary interfaces. They simply don’t want to give their users freedom of choice.
Even Mozilla makes it almost impossible to sync your browser data on your own server. I wonder why?
Let’s find ways to get our digital independence back. Let’s develop software and solutions that allows us to use clouds, even our own clouds, to provide safe, easy to use and convenient services without the need to feed the wolves. Learn more here: Electronic Frontier Foundation