21 November 2019


I have taken another small step today towards minimising the Google effect in my life. I was an early adopter of Gmail in 2006 (back in the days when it was still Googlemail) and I remember a medical student being kind enough to send me an invite to get me into the system before it was opened up. Over the past year I’ve been more and more concerned, admittedly in a low level way, about the impact of the tech giants. Their absolute dominance and cavalier approach to privacy should unnerve us all.

The knee-jerk response to concerns about privacy is to cast it back to the person. The suggestion being that if you are doing nothing wrong’ then you should have nothing to fear. This seems to stem from a view that the tech corporates are beneficent giants. They are not. It’s become more and more apparent that they are no different to any profit-seeking corporation. They avoid tax in the same way. They have had little compunction in breaching privacy of users to maximise their income, only rowing back when the tide of opinion has risen to threaten them. They have allowed bad actors to use our data to influence our politics and undermine our democracies. We should all be alarmed.

Marching on the streets is hardly proportionate but we can tweak our lives to reduce our dependence on them. I gave up social media but I appreciate that is not for everyone. You could stop using the Google search engine: DuckDuckGo° and Smartpage.com° are very good alternatives and have policies tailored around privacy. Use Firefox° rather than Google’s Chrome browser. And, give up using Gmail. I’ve now moved my work and personal email addresses to Fastmail.° I do have to pay but when you consider the amount of time spent on email it feels like a reasonable cost. It’s quick, they have excellent customer service, and I’ve extricated myself from the Google infrastructure.


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