Pillar of Value:
Office Suite = Notebooks
The office suite on our computers functions like a physical notebook and pen. We write our ideas, create charts, and perform calculations in our notebooks to save and sometimes share with others. The office suite familiar to most is Microsoft Office. Regardless of whether you buy a Mac or Windows machine, buying the Microsoft Office suite of tools is almost always a necessity. If you’ve ever bought a new computer, you’ve inevitably performed the Microsoft license dance. Maybe you check if your family and friends have a spare license you can use. You might even ask a niece or nephew if they can purchase a license for you with their student discounts. In the end, you are beholden to Microsoft for your everyday digital notebook needs.
Pillar of Value:
Emails = Letters
Almost anyone with internet access has a personal and a professional email address through which hundreds of emails are exchanged weekly. With the ubiquity of email in the online ecosystem, it is important that we ensure our emails are kept private. One of the most common email providers is Google through their Gmail service. Gmail provides a host of features that are enticing and highly valuable. Between their ability to provide near unlimited storage and additional access to the Google suite of external tools, it’s the go-to email provider for many people. However, with every Google service there is a catch. Google is only able to provide comprehensive products for free because they use and sell the data they collect from you in exchange for that access.
Pillar of Value:
Conversations = Texting
The connection between texting and conversation is an obvious 1-to-1: the exchange of words between two or more people. Unlike a face-to-face conversation between people, text messages sent between parties leave a record. This is where End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is important. E2EE is a secure method of protecting text conversations where only the sender and receiver in a conversation can read what is written. Chances are you're already using a messaging service that has E2EE. Apple’s IMessage and FaceTime are E2EE. Now, the question we must ask is whether we trust the companies hosting the servers through which we communicate.
Pillar of Value:
Train of Thought = Online Browsing
Audio accompaniment available here.
Our inner train of thought is the most personal piece of our identity. Our train of thought is not shared with anyone and dictates how we communicate and act.
Internet browsing is the online version of your train of thought. The moment you open up your internet browser and type a query into a search engine, you are drawing a path of links and pages mapped across the internet. Over time this map begins to resemble our inner thought processes as we look online for answers to our questions.
As with your inner train of thought, it is important to protect your online train of thought from others. The biggest threat to your personal internet browsing comes from entities tracking and collecting your online activity. Three of the biggest culprits are Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Online activity is tracked across websites by companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon through certain types of cookies. Cookies tend to get a bad name in the privacy space because of the cross-site tracking capabilities of ones deployed by large data collectors like Facebook and Google. However, many cookies deployed on websites are just temporary stores of data and allow websites to function more smoothly and are relatively innocuous.
Privacy is Inherently Personal
Every person desires a different level of privacy. What we feel is our desired level of privacy is tied to what we tie to our identity. The structure of our identity is held up by our pillars of value. These pillars do not only apply to the physical world, but the online world as well. Our online identities are as valuable as our physical identities. We communicate with our loved ones online. We pay our bills and taxes online. We apply for jobs online. We share our lives online. Just as we pick-and-choose what we value in the physical world, we pick-and-choose what we value in the digital world.
My hope is that the tools I present can help you protect those pillars most valuable to you. Not every tool needs to be used. But as with everything, being prepared means knowing what tools you have in your toolbox. Your values may change and as such the tools you use to protect them will be needed.
We use Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and other companies’ products for a reason. They’ve created synergistic environments with convenience and ease of use as their number one priority. However, the cost of this convenience is our privacy.
Reclaiming your online identity from these companies is a difficult journey. My goal is to make that journey as smooth as possible.