Privacy And Technology Mixed

Like Oil and Water

There’s been a lot of bad news in the past several years about data breaches and other privacy related issues. You would think that, like oil and water, Privacy and Technology just don’t mix. Despite advances in security and protection with our web-connected devices, privacy keeps getting thrown under the bus. Are there any tech companies you can trust these days?

Apple Privacy

One of the biggest proponents for techno-privacy is Apple. They market Privacy as a feature of their premium ecosystem, and it’s one with great benefits. What are the greatest perks of online privacy? Identity, Autonomy, and Security come to mind.

You may have heard sayings like, “Your device, your data.” As an individual, you have personal info: some is private, some is public – you should be the one to decide. The problem is too often others – tech companies, smart assistants, algorithms – decide for us.

Amongst the big-tech oligopoly, Apple has been the company you can trust the most. That’s a big reason why I bought into Apple’s “walled-garden.” You could ride a chariot on top of those walls! In one ad, they boldly declared that, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” I like the reassuring sound of that; it’s comforting.

But no company is perfect. We now have the recent discomforting news that Apple has, perhaps inadvertently, shown hypocrisy – which might as well be heresy – by violating its users’ privacy. They allowed contractors to listen to personal audio recordings coming from Siri, the digital assistant. It’s bad enough news that long-time Apple blogger, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, did not have good things to say about the situation. I think Apple has broken some trust.

Is there anyone you can trust these days to respect or protect your privacy? I think Apple is still the one big-tech company you can trust the most, and that should be borne out in how they respond to this new debacle.

Google Privacy

Besides Apple, I also bought into the Google universe, having just switched from iPad to Chromebook. I’m also leaning towards trading my iPhone for an Android phone. I like going all-in. This is mostly because I’m a tech-geek; gadgets are my thing. But the issue about privacy did weigh into my decision to leap over Apple’s garden walls into the world-wide-web that is Google’s domain.

If I value my digital privacy, how can I leave Apple for Google? Fair question.

In a blog post published earlier this year, I made the following simplistic statement:

“One reason I prefer Apple over Google is because of privacy. Google wants all your data to throw ads at you and feed their machine learning stuff. Apple respects your privacy and would rather not have your personal data.”

Like big-tech companies that update their privacy policies, I’ve updated my view on Google’s position towards privacy. The bottom line is that I find Google’s mix of privacy and technology acceptable. Maybe they’re not as trustworthy as Apple, but I think they’re trustworthy enough.

While I prefer Google did not collect and use so much of my personal data, they give me enough opportunities to opt-out or opt-in at particular points. Their Privacy and Security pages have greatly improved over time, and the GDPR keeps them in check.

As for Google throwing ads at me, the fact is ads are thrown at me everywhere all the time by numerous sources. It’s not as if Google is the sole dispenser of unpleasant ads. And on the contrary, the data Google collects is used to show me pleasant ads, which are relevant to me and my interests.

Also, the data Google collects is used to “feed their machine learning stuff.” Maybe Google’s A.I. Machine is a glutton, but I trust all that data gets put to good use. I know it benefits Google, making their machine algorithms more “intelligent” overall for many purposes.

For me, I get a lot of perks like being reminded that I have a bill scheduled for auto-pay coming up. How did Google know that? They “read” my email. But the “they” referred to here is not some group of human curators. My understanding is that it’s automatic, part of the Google machine learning mechanism. It’s powerful and magical albeit opaque and misunderstood. But again, the fruits of this labor are very practical and beneficial to me.

You could say I’ve chosen to trust Google. Frankly, switching from iPad to Chromebook, I had to. But it was still a choice. If I want to use Google’s devices and services, I must decide to trust them with my data.

Getting Personal

When it comes to putting my personal trust in Google, or any company, there’s always risk. Even Apple drops the ball. While some trust is based on a company’s lengthy privacy policy or catchy marketing, it also boils down to personal experience.

In all my years of both my wife and I using Google, we’ve had zero privacy problems. Instead, we’ve enjoyed the many benefits of Google using our own data for us, not against us. Google’s “free” services have served us well.

Although bad news about data hacks and surveillance is too prevalent and causes anxiety and uncertainty, we all have a personal choice when it comes to our data and how it gets used. How much control we have is sometimes up for debate. But we do, by and large, decide which companies we trust with our info. Hopefully, they’ll continue to earn it by showing more respect for our privacy.

What’s your take on digital privacy? Does location tracking or recorded audio listening creep you out? Do you trust Google or Apple more? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Why I Quit Facebook

I quit Facebook. I chose the nuke from orbit option: deletion instead of deactivation. The recent Cambridge Analytica data exploit was the catalyst for my decision. But I had been wary of Facebook before and was already detaching from it.

Over my 9 years of friending, liking, and sharing, Facebook has been a mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed the positive things about it, but the negatives finally weighed enough for me to quit.

I still do social media–follow me on Twitter–but now I do less of it. Of course, I also deleted my Instagram account since it’s owned by Facebook. Now I plan to focus more on my blog…and my offline life.

So why did I quit Facebook? Of my many reasons, I’ll try to summarize only a few. Crack knuckles…begin!

Facebook neither protects your data nor respects your privacy

Facebook’s privacy mistakes and data sharing concerns have surfaced repeatedly throughout the years. It’s made me leary before. And now, the latest and greatest example is the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Altogether, it’s made me no longer trust Facebook.

Facebook is too addictive and manipulative

Facebook’s ability to keep our attention has been a growing concern over time; the pot seems to have boiled over. Tristan Harris and his site humanetech explain best, and my experience is like that of many. I’ve mindlessly scrolled the newsfeed and habitually checked for red circled notifications too much. I’ve written about it before: The End of Newsfeed Distraction and The Matrix of Social Media.

Facebook kills the open and indy web

Facebook’s ubiquity and utility make it a one-stop-shop; it tries to be everything to everyone. And under the pretense of privacy and security, it’s closed off–less so these days–from the rest of the internet. So most people stay on Facebook instead of visiting other websites and blogs. People once “surfed the web;” now they “scroll their feed.”

Facebook is too big and influential

Facebook has 2.2 billion members–more than the largest country in the world. This suggests great power requiring great responsibility. But I think for any one person, like founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, it is too much. The inherent risks are too great. And although being an influential and powerful agency, Facebook has been unregulated by any government and has proven unable or unwilling to regulate itself to any sufficient degree. Zuckerberg himself has shown reluctance to his assumed responsibilities.

Those are some of my reasons why I gained freedom from Facebook. Overall, I’m not totally against social media. It has pros and cons, and it affects people in different ways. But I think it would be good to re-evaluate the place of Facebook in your life and choose what’s best. Maybe you delete it or use it less. Or you could be good as is.

Have you thought about quitting Facebook before? What are some pros and cons of social media for you? Do you prefer Twitter over Facebook? Or Pinterest versus Instagram??

Let me know in the comments; I’d be glad to hear your input!