Between 1950 and 1989 the National Security Agency, commonly known as the Stasi, in East Germany, employed 274,000 people. Their mission was to spy on everyone who lived in the country. Family members sometimes even reported on other family members. Nearly every move anyone made was reported. It was something that the rest of the world struggled to comprehend. It sounded like a bad novel, perhaps closer to the societal blueprint George Orwell had presented in the book 1984.
In 1984, Apple released the legendary Macintosh and claimed this was why 1984 would never be like 1984
Now fast-forward to 2022 and a world……where you need to record your name, address, telephone number, photograph, and date of birth before you're allowed to enter a shopping mall or a restaurant. Perhaps, for convenience, you have all of this in a little QR code hanging around your neck, or on a bracelet, maybe just scannable on your phone, government sanctioned, of course!.
Yes, I hear you! Thanks to COVID-19 and contact tracing, that is exactly what is or has been enforced in place in many countries. We’re not decrying the need for public health initiatives, but the government overreach (and the look inside Pandora’s Box it has provided them) has been extremely worrying!
Now imagine that there are cameras mounted everywhere that monitor every step you take, record every product you touch when shopping and even analyze your feelings when you touch them. Perhaps there is an employee who follows you around with a clipboard to record how fast you walk, what products you viewed and anything else the cameras might have missed. At the checkout, an employee might approach you and to advise you that whilst the products you've chosen are great, they have a similar product that is basically the same but cheaper. It could even be that they are simply exchanging the products you've picked with theirs.
The store then informs your health care provider about what you’ve just bought, and since it wasn’t exactly healthy maybe, who knows, that company will increase your monthly premiums. Because, hey, you're at risk…after all, you just got steaks, red wine, some beer plus some scotch! Lucky you didn’t grab a pack of chips as well! At the same time, the store starts trading this information with other stores where you have been, restaurants where you've eaten and with other people who've been following you around. They inform other shops nearby as well as their retail partners, just in case you come in. They already have your picture, name, date of birth and know you eat steaks, drink beer and have the occasional scotch. After leaving the store someone follows you to your car and records all its details.
So now you've finally made it home with your red wine and steaks and there is someone standing outside your house. They are taking pictures, looking at everything you're doing, asking every visitor about their QR code, to know their name, address, age and, of course, if they drink scotch and eat steaks. They also want to know why they're visiting you and your relationship. Moreover, they need to see their cellphones and all their chats with you, perhaps even copying the entire contents of the SIM and the data on the phone. A little later, the postman arrives, just minutes before you receive a FedEx you have been expecting. The person in front of your house opens your mail, takes pictures and makes notes on all of this including the time stamp on each. This data is then synced with the guys at the local stores and all the people who’ve been following you around all day. They log what time you turn on your lights in the evening, when you close your blinds, what time you turn on the TV and, since they have access to your internet, they also know what you’re watching. They record all your texts, in and out, regardless of whether they are via a regular SMS or encrypted messaging service (which although they can’t read it still provides the time received, from whom and where they logged on). During this time, another person goes through your trash, writes down everything in there and sends that information to everyone you’ve had contact with.
Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Well, just reread it and realize that all of this and more happens each and every day—online!
All of that data, all of the people, all of the time…again, frankly scary!
Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and so many other companies are looking at you constantly and sharing your information. They're also recommending you not to buy the products you wanted because they (Amazon, you listening?) have a (ripoff) product that's just as good!
On our sister site, decentralize.today, we’ve covered a lot of the background on Big Tech in the EXPOSED! series but it's well worth reading it over again using Amazon as one of the most shameless exponents:
Sure you might say, it's just Amazon or Apple, but that is not true. Google is an advertising and data collecting monster, and it sells and shares your data with many other companies. Facebook is another data collecting giant, and many people use the products of both of these companies daily, without even being aware what they are linked in to. And believe it or not, even if you don’t use Facebook, and perhaps maybe never have, they still have a shadow profile on you.
Apple is a bit better as it is not an advertising company as such, and lately, in fairness, it seems to be implementing some nice privacy-focused features, just don’t be blinded to the fact that they can and do collect your data and your location at any given time! Apple also doesn’t have their OS open-source, so, whatever they say, we need to believe. And the issues compound…it's not just that these companies (and governments) collect vast amounts of data on you, it's also how they store and secure it. Data leaks constantly, or is 'liberated', in hundreds of thousands of failures or breeches.
It happens across the board, not just from Facebook as you would expect, but also from many other ‘tech security’ giants such as Microsoft etc. This is your property!
If this sounds a bit like East Germany, it isn’t, as this information is all obtained openly, legally, with your tacit approval and often only shared with other companies! And if it makes you feel better (and it won’t), governments also have legal access to most of this data (alongside their own databases on you). It doesn’t take a genius to work out that corporations, governments (read political interests) and even foreign powers can now use this information to influence your behavior, to mold your opinions or even to outright persecute you for your political or personal beliefs or preferences. So, what can I do about it? You’ve probably known of, or suspected, a lot of the above but never really thought you could combat it or that it really wasn’t ‘that bad’! Well, it is that bad and you can combat it. So this is why we now have a new site where you can do privacy on privacy.do
Some time ago, I started the Privacy Cookbook on decentralize.today, but have decided that I needed to create a standalone resource-driven site focussing entirely on Privacy. The goal is to give everyone an easy-to-use guide to improving their own privacy, with real-world examples, real-use cases for all formats and setups. We’re not going to recommend selling your iPhone and getting a GrapheneOS phone (even if we do believe it is the best approach). Instead, we will guide you with your existing hardware to attract less trackers, deal with fewer, if any, ads and thus help you break the cycle of free flow data being used against you. We will help you become more privacy orientated. Every single step helps to protect you and your data from the big corporations, governments and law enforcement agencies around the world.
Remember, you are not the criminal here, you don’t wear an ankle bracelet…the issue is that you carry one around with you most of the time…yes! Your cellphone!
The problem with your cellphone is it collects and sends data about you every minute, regardless of whether you switch off location services and don’t even use a signed in account. Google on Android, but also Apple on iOS, they all send data, all day, every day!
We can’t give you the definitive blueprint on how to escape these Stasi-like companies and governments, but we can illustrate and guide you to reducing their relentless intrusion into your private life, giving them less power to control you. That is our promise to you. Privacy is a core human right. You may not have anything to hide, but the more important point here is that you have nothing, and no need, to share! I don’t want to live in a world where I need to think twice about who may be watching and recording what I say and do, especially when they realize themselves a profit in doing so. If everyone gives less data, then that deprives others of holding power and control over us. Consequently, a degree of freedom will ultimately be returned to us. privacy.do - the playbook to privacy online.