I first started really using computers and the internet when I went to college in 2007. During and after my college years, Google has developed some amazing services that I’ve used and enjoyed, from android and gmail to Hangouts and Drive. I have gotten a lot of good from Google’s services, and I appreciate the tremendous role the company has had in growing the internet as we know it. What I never really considered, was the cost of these “free” services. Google has a large and detailed profile on me (and probably you) which I feed every time that I use a Google product. I have decided I don’t really like that. I’d rather pay a small amount for the services I use and keep my privacy, than trade all of my personal information for my email, and other services. I am not doing this to boycott Google, or because I have some deep dark secret to hide, I’m doing it because I want a more private internet. I want a world where big corporations aren’t able to easily compile all the details of my life in a database somewhere, without my knowledge (though technically with my permission, due to the EULA which most of us don’t read or understand). I believe that a few small steps can move us towards that goal.
So, what have I done? I’ve changed my browser to firefox. I’ve installed a few add ons, I’ve started using anonymous search engines. I’ve changed my email address. That’s a big one, and a bit difficult for some of us. I’ve started using a VPN. I’ve started using a password manager. What has all this cost? So far, including some annual donations to some of the Free Open Source (FOS) projects, I’m in it for about $60/year. I’ve got a few more steps to take, but all told I expect it will cost my family less than $120/year. When I think about it, would I sell a big book with all my data, a map of everywhere I went, a list of everything I was interested in, and much more to 5 or 6 large companies for a grand total of $120? I don’t think so.
I understand though that even that amount could be a stretch for some though. The good news is, there is a lot of FOS software out there that is completely donation supported, so you could probably get most of those benefits for about $45/year if you just took advantage of the free options, and didn’t donate to the companies behind them.
The final step I’m taking is starting this blog to tell you, my friends and family about my concerns and invite you to come along with me on this private journey. I’m not trying to put any big companies out of business, or advocating protests in the streets. I am suggesting that if enough of us turn to companies and services that DO respect our privacy, perhaps we can influence the big guys to move towards more privacy. For the people.