Yesterday I wrote a post (in Swedish) about how recent development i Sweden regarding privacy, government control and our control of the government worries me. Since it’s written about Swedish politics, from a Swedes perspective, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to write in english. This post, however, feels much more internationally appropriate.
The problem of government surveillance is real, very real. However, since I’m not an anarchist, I do think we should have a strong (but preferably small) government and law enforcement agencies but it is very important to make sure they don’t circumvent our privacy more than necessary to uphold the liberal democracy (which is what I think we are seeing tendencies toward in Sweden at the moment).
That is not the problem I’m going to address in this post. Here I’m going to whine and worry about the surveillance of us done by corporations. It’s truly frightening how much the big computing corporations know about us. To me, especially the corporations that purposefully mines us for our personal information to sell us ads (hello Google, Facebook, Twitter etc.) scares me.1
I am not anti corporations2 and I’m not a Free Software advocate. I find great value in Open Source code but I don’t think closed source is inherently evil or that corporations can’t be trusted. Therefore I’m not interested in substituting everything in my computer life for open source alternatives (as suggested by this site) at least not as long as I think there are other values in software that are currently closed source that I don’t find in the open source world.
Hence I will not replace my MacBook Pro or its operating system, my iPhone and iPad or their operating systems, my LG TV, my TomTom GPS or my Kindle. But I will try to make conscious choices to rely less on products where I’m not the customer but merely the product.3
First up Google Search.
A couple of hours ago I started using DuckDuckGo instead of Google for my main web search. To make this fairly easy, I did two things.
- I changed ”Fall back search” in Alfred from Google to DuckDuckGo. Something like 40% (I think) of my web searches is done from the Alfred prompt.
- I installed the DuckDuckGo Safari extension. This overrides Safari’s default behavior of searching with Google when I type search strings in the address bar and instead searches DuckDuckGo.
These two small changes means I don’t have to change anything about my day to day behavior when searching the web and still feed a whole lot less information into Google.4 There is one small problem, though.
I like searches tailored specifically for me! I’ve tried switching away from Google before but ended up switching back because I couldn’t find things as easily when using DuckDuckGo. Since Google knows so much about my browsing habits, it’s also very good at finding the things I need. So that is the catch 22 here. This time, I’ll try to power through for at least two weeks. If I still miss tailored searches, I guess I have to re-evaluate my decision.
Next up, which will not be tackled today; Dropbox.
- I’m sure some people think I’m an ”Apple fanboy”, an ”iSheep” or ”Steve’s whipping boy” or whatever for not fearing Apple. I don’t think it has something to do with bias in any way. It’s just that Apple has a business model that I feel safe in. They sell me expensive gadgets, I give them money. It’s a simple transaction where I never put myself up for sale. ↩
- Quite the opposite in fact, since I’m more or less a classical liberal. ↩
- Yes, I know some people think that is a very inaccurate and populistic description of ad financed services, but I like it. Sure, nothing is that black or white in the real world, but I do think that description gives a good picture of what the root problem with ad financed things are. ↩
- I want to make it very clear, I do not hate Google. I love so many of Googles services, but I don’t like the notion of being tracked. ↩