Privacy: A Primer

Privacy is a hot topic in 2023. A concern for some, a buzzword for others. Should I care? What can I do? Is it too late? Why bother?

I’d love to say this is your one-stop shop for all the answers, but who am I but one set of hands typing? (Disclaimer: In 2023, this website uses ancient technology – I am a human writing this article from scratch; no Artificial Intelligence added).

But some musings on privacy, for what they may be worth:

  1. Privacy is one of those things that you don’t realize you have (or are losing) until you start to lose it (or no longer have it). Then you value it. And it is by that time too difficult to get it back.
  2. A completely different topic (Artificial Intelligence) is in large part our willingness to have signed up for and used online storage, free online photos (Google Photos, for example) and any other service offering too-good-to-be-free storage and functionality. Or is it just a coincidence that many of these “free” services used people as the product and then turned to paid plans right before the start of the big AI boom? Who cares about privacy or what can happen – just sign me up for my free photo storage!
  3. Many consider privacy “too difficult” a topic, requiring work and effort to attend to, and will definitely be interested “later”. I imagine living in a glass house, walking around naked all day, unconcerned that anyone passing by can shoot photos and videos of you now, because later down the road you will invest in curtains and that will just solve the entire problem then and there.

So what can be done about privacy (online, at least)? Well, this does not at all aim to be a comprehensive primer on protecting yourself online. Just a small list of ideas and possible solutions / services. I’m not affiliated with any of them, and I get nothing by you clicking any links here.

  • Email: Well, it seems like everyone has their Gmail. Sign up, free space. Free photos. Free collaboration. Free, free, free. Until it isn’t. Sign in to any website easy with your Gmail. They can’t read your email. That’s what they say. And you can simply use Google to search for evidence of that. Remember, they are a business, and they have a bottom line. You might consider more private email options such as ProtonMail, Skiff Mail or Email (or any service) is only as private as the laws of the country in which the service resides, and it is best to consider the allies / strategic partners of foreign countries (consider searching for things like “Five Eyes” and other related terms. Not on Google. Or in their browser. Go for something private.
  • Search: If you type it into a Google search engine, the world knows it. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that “Private / Incognito” means no one knows. Consider using a search engine that does not track you and your every keystroke, such as DuckDuckGo or Startpage (which uses Google results but strips the tracking info).
  • Photos: Google makes money selling advertising. Your information. So the more info they collect on you, the more money they can make. Use any other service. Am I saying that OneDrive or iCloud are private? Hell, no. Does Apple (currently) have a business model of selling advertising to anyone in the universe? No.  So, while it might not be an ideal solution, consider that convenience has a price.

Most websites will also use Google Analytics to track you, because companies / sites are obsessed with seeing how much traffic they receive.  This website, by the way, has no tracking or analytics installed. I don’t care. There is a method of contact indicated on this website; if you are interested in it, you will find it easily enough.

Well, those are the musings of the moment. Hope it is of some help to someone!

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