Feb 272014

"There be gold in that there... data..."

“There be gold in that there… data…”

I’m as curious as the next person (maybe a bit more…). And I like attention as much as anybody (maybe a bit more…). Because of this I’ve been an intermediate user of Facebook for the past couple of years.

In those years things started happening. Privacy protection was diminished step by step, usually without any form of information. Secondly, Facebook started asking for more and more information (“Please enter your phone number for security reasons“). And finally, the things that can be done with this (and other) information is getting to the “oh hell, that’s creepy” levels:

  • There is software that will quite accurately predict from someone’s friends and likes what their sexual orientation is…
  • Combining information from Facebook and location sharing software such as 4square allows you to walk up to someone you see in the street / pub and knowing everything about them they put online. The perfect tool for any confidence trickster…
  • Amazon is now doing tests on altering the prices of their products based on what they (or better, their software) thinks you would be happy to pay for it; recently ordered a top-of-the-range wide screen television? Expect to be paying a few Euro’s more for the Blu-rays to watch on it…

And then Facebook bought Whatsapp. My favorite chat-as-you’re-waiting-for-the-train-application. Which does contain my phone number. And stores every conversation I’ve been having with my friends over it.

I haven’t trusted Facebook for quite a while. And now I don’t trust Whatsapp anymore.

So it’s time to move on. To move away even.

Thus, as of the 7th of March I’m deleting both my Facebook and Whatsapp accounts.

Of course Google also stores my data and does who-knows-what with it. Anybody know of any reasonable alternatives to GMail and perhaps even a truly alternative search engine?
My main reason for hanging on to my Facebook account until now was that quite some people read these blog posts through it. So, if you read these through Facebook and would like to continue doing reading them, either sign up for the e-mail alerts, add it to your favorite RSS reader, or “like” the Facebook page for it (I’ll be keeping that one up, as it really is just a vehicle for getting this blog under the people).

I’ve also already installed an alternative for Whatsapp. After prompting and some own research I ended up with Telegram. It’s not perfect, but it definitely is far better security / privacy wise: Open source, run by an non-profit, ability to have messages deleted after a certain period and the possibility to encrypt messages. If you want to message with me while I’m waiting for the train, this will be the way to do it. Of course you can also still send me e-mails, or even call me!

Enjoy your privacy. While it lasts!

In case you don’t know what to think about privacy, this XKCD comic.

  6 Responses to “Privacy”

  1. Best anonymous search engine as far as I know: https://www.ixquick.com/

  2. Thanks! I’ll certainly look into this!

  3. Hahaha, because you can really trust the Russians with your data!!

    My problem with the whole story is network effects: while many Dutch people seem to be switching to Telegram, all my German friends are switching to Treema (or something like that) and my friends in Chile stick it out with Whatsapp. Now, I am not a big user of Whatsapp in the first place, but I wouldn’t want to have to use a bunch of different systems at the same time…

  4. You might want to check search engine Ecosia; I’m not super sure about their privacy politics, but at least they’re “green” and small and give reasonable search results (in stead of Google giving me what they think I want, which is most of the time not matching my wishes).

    @OJ: it shows how easy it is for both users and messenger providers when there’s just one player monopolizing the market. I’m curious what will be the next thing to text with (if we again fall into this monopoly trap), since I’m not convinced Telegram will last long…

    • OJ: That sounds a bit bigoted towards a certain country… I did actually check and as far as I can tell their security protocols make data snooping impossible even by Telegram itself.

      Roos: I think we’ll see local convergence (Threema in Germany, Telegram in the Netherlands, etc.) and then semi-global convergence as one company wins out over the others (either because they truly are better, or because they have a bigger client base).

      In principle I’m not against a monopoly, as long as it’s a fragile monopoly, meaning that it is a monopoly specifically because it is the -best- at what it’s trying to do. Once the monopoly gets abused (as Facebook in my opinion is) people start “voting with their feet” and the monopoly (slowly but steadily) crumbles.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>