The 2019 resolution was to remove my dependency to google, amazon and any other big surveillance capitalist corporation. I failed to finish it and will certainly need another year. But I have certainly reduced it enough so I can confidently say that I’m not being tracked by a single entity.

The changes

Phone

It is impossible to configure android so it stops leaking information. I started with disconnect, an app to monitor and restrict tracker traffic. It is a scary feeling to see how after a few days hundreds of leaks happened.

Despite it being helpful and restricting some of them, its blacklist approach and the latency issues made it an impractical solution. Instead I purchased a feature phone with opera mini and no chat or accounts linked to it. I also removed the cameras from it and plan to do the same with the mic (still able to use it with a headset)

The android phone I still have travels with a block case or switched off. No tracking of my location, camera or addictive social networking on it.

TVs

Not a problem since I avoided purchasing a smart tv. This has definitely an extra cost as the smart tvs tend to be cheaper than their non smart counterparts. This is a vector of privacy violations as Samsung TVs require sending the screen content (!) to their server.

Computer

All computers have their webcams covered, but not the microphones. No closed software except some drivers for linux and phone.

Mail

I had to purchase an email associated with my domain, 12€ a year cost. One of the problems of not using Gmail or the other big companies emails is that for the most part emails get lost randomly. This is an asymetry within the federated email protocol, and it is worth fighting.

History

Gmail search is the easiest way to search documents about important issues. Taxes, contracts, invoices, travel, etc. After having the emails in a local folder, I use a tool called notmuch to get searches in O(1)

Chat

After some research on the issue, I tried keybase but the client is too slow and I still don’t fully understand how their model works. conversations.im (jabber underneath) together with OMEMO encryption turned out to be the superior choice.

Social network

This is one of the hardest points to fix. There aren’t that many alternatives to facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. that don’t revolve around collecting information and selling it to third parties. I tried mastodon but because I’m not a twitter nor facebook user, I don’t see the need or the point.

Backup

Instead of google Drive or dropbox, I have a self managed server and use rsync extensively . As for the search, I tried recoll but with limited results

Youtube

There is no viable alternative in terms of amount of content or power of search. Removing cookies and having anonymous sessions helps, but there is still browser fingerprinting and IP tracking. There is also the problem of the addictive behavior because of the accuracy of their behavioral prediction.

The costs

  • £1/month for the email
  • £0.5/month for the chat
  • £5/month for the server
  • £5/month extra TV price for it not being surveillance
  • The inconvinience of not being able to look at emails at any point

The savings

  • £10/month not having a smartphone
  • 30 minutes a day of not looking at the phone

TODO

  • Bank cards and money are still a source of tracking and an easy data point for the various providers
  • The fact that most online sellers require an address. Perhaps buying a po box ?