Become Antifragile: Taking Control Of Your Digital Life Part 1
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Imagine that you wake up one day and check your Gmail, only to find that you are locked out of your account, unable to receive new emails. How would this affect you? How many other services would you have to switch to a new email address? How many phone calls would you have to make, owing to the fact that you would not be able to verify your identity? If you’re like me, the idea alone gives you heart palpitations. It’s a true nightmare scenario. Now, imagine that you submit a request to Google to figure out what the hell happened, and - probably after a few days - they finally get around to letting you know that the reason you were locked out of your account is that you wrote a YouTube comment or a Google business review that they didn’t like.
Sound farfetched? Well, there’s nothing in their terms of service that stops them from doing this. In fact, their TOS explicitly allows it:
Google Accounts are usually disabled if the account’s owner hasn’t followed our policies. Google’s policies include:
1) Google Terms of Service.
2) Other policies and terms for our products and services.
Furthermore, having multiple Gmail accounts wouldn’t save you here - anecdotally, I am familiar with several people who had every single one of their Gmail accounts shut down on the same day over paltry issues similar to the one described above. Google knows who you are, and any account you have with any of their services is connected to your identity on their end. If they want to persecute you for political reasons - such as what arguably happened to Jordan Peterson when all of his Google accounts were shut down simultaneously - they can do so, and they will suffer no consequences.
You may think that this could never happen to you. “I’m not political,” you might say. But who knows what will be considered offensive tomorrow? Who knows which persons will be given access to Google’s all-powerful ban button in the future? And, most of all, is it really worth taking the chance when there are safer, more private alternatives? Thus, it is important now, more than ever, to free yourself from the clutches of “big tech” companies like Google.
The companies that comprise big tech could be described in many ways. In one sense, they are like stack of stones, each supporting the rest in a tall spire. They are many hands, each washing the other. It is perhaps more telling if we describe what they aren’t. They aren’t a diverse set of companies with different purposes - they are a monolithic oligopoly with the one set of goals and political leanings. They aren’t benevolent, and they don’t have your best interests in mind. They definitely do not care for the American ideals of freedom of speech, and in many cases (such as Jack Dorsey) their actions make it clear that they despise the concept.
In short, they all have political agendas, and you are a commodity to them. You - and your data - are making them a profit, all while they treat you like an animal that needs to be corralled and controlled.
You must take control of your digital life. You must become antifragile.
Antifragility is a property of systems that increase in capability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.
Even if becoming uncensorable doesn’t appeal to you or seems unnecessary, you should want to take back your data from the globalist oligarchy which is profiting from it. Finally, and perhaps best of all, you will even be able to make a profit from following this guide - really! Your data and your attention are worth money, and there are ways that you can get paid for them instead of giving them away to Google et al. for free. I will show you.
So now that I’ve laid out an argument against associating yourself with big tech, this is a good time to explain exactly what companies I’m talking about. I will do that, but given that this article is meant to help you take control of your digital life, we will instead go service-by-service. Together, we will take a look at the services that comprise the existing infrastructure of the web, and what free speech alternatives exist to those services. If you follow the instructions here, you will be antifragile, and you will not be contributing to the corrupt edifice that big tech has become.
Bad: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, etc.
We must begin with the humble web browser because it is your gateway to everything else on the internet. At the time of this writing, global browser usage statistics indicate that Google Chrome has a monstrous 66.12% average usage across all device types compared to other browsers, and 70.33% average usage on desktop devices. It’s hard to argue that Google doesn’t have an effective monopoly here. I consider Google Chrome to be such an invasive data harvester that it should be referred to as spyware! Chrome tracks almost every profitable piece of data regarding your online experience and sends it back to its masters at Google headquarters. Got a weird fetish? Google knows about it, because Google knows every website you’ve visited in the last several months and is tracking it across every device you have. If you don’t believe me, and you happen to have Chrome installed, go ahead and click your history. There will be a tab that lets you look at the history of your other devices. Or, just go to your Google activity page and prepare to be shocked at the amount of data Google is keeping on you.
Google Chrome is, in short, an instrument of surveillance. Who could argue otherwise? Fortunately, there is a super simple alternative to it, and it’s called Brave. It’s built off of “Chromium,” which is the same browser Google Chrome is based on, but it’s been de-Googleified and does not track you at all. Brave’s developers have stated their commitment toward prioritizing user’s privacy. It has built in adblocking, built in optional anonymous browsing via the Tor network, and supports pretty much any Chrome app natively due to the fact that they’re both Chromium-based. Perhaps best of all, you can get paid to browse the internet in that browser. Sounds like a scam, right? Wrong! The industry heavyweights behind Brave believe that if your attention is going to be monetized, it ought to be monetized by you and not some faceless corporation like Google. As a result, you can navigate to brave://rewards in your Brave browser and optionally turn on unobtrusive text-based ads - up to five per hour, depending on your settings - and get paid for each one you see.
Bad: Gmail, Outlook, etc.
I considered making “email” the first thing on my list. The only reason I didn’t is that, for security purposes, you really don’t want to set up a new email from a compromised browser like Google Chrome. Email affects far more in your day-to-day life than your choice of browser. The nightmare scenario I described in the beginning of this article - Google shutting down your Gmail account for some frivolous non-reason - is something that is nearly life ruining in its scope. Think of all the things you have connected to your email account. Your bank accounts. Your brokerage accounts. Your cryptocurrency exchange accounts. Your social media accounts. Your gaming accounts, such as Steam. In every single one of these cases, changing your email would require you to receive a verification link to the existing email account. But what if you no longer have access because Google decided to shut you down?
It is clear that email - despite being something of a dinosaur technology - is the linchpin of your entire digital life, and for most people that means trusting Google implicitly. No, no, no. Why do this when you don’t have to? The Swiss have a great alternative: ProtonMail.
When you go to ProtonMail and sign up, you’ll see that there are tiers of service, the first of which is free. If you look at the description, you’ll see a very telling statement:
We believe privacy is a fundamental human right so we provide free accounts as a public service. You can still support us by telling your friends and family about ProtonMail, or making a donation.
“Privacy is a fundamental human right” is about as far away as you can get from big tech. What a concept! It gets even better on their blog, where they expanded on this statement:
We founded ProtonMail to build an Internet that protects privacy, defends civil liberties, and keeps users safe from cyber attacks. We firmly believe in the right to free speech, the right to privacy and security, and the principle that no one should be prevented from exercising these rights.
This explicit devotion towards privacy, civil liberties, and free speech is fundamental. In my opinion, ProtonMail is the most secure free speech alternative to Google, and if you value your privacy or your civil rights you should be using it. However, there are some caveats here:
Finally, it is important to note that the use of ProtonMail is not unconditional. We have clear terms and conditions that prohibit activity that would be illegal in Switzerland, such as hate speech or destruction of property. Breaking these rules will result in accounts being disabled. If a Swiss court rules that your usage of ProtonMail is illegal, this would also result in your account being shut down, as we must abide by all applicable Swiss laws.
Unfortunately, these sorts of mealy-mouthed “hate speech” laws - laws which I believe are especially pernicious due to the fact that the definition of “hate speech” seems to be constantly changing - are largely unavoidable anywhere outside of America. So, it is not recommended that you use ProtonMail for political speech, as it could be deemed illegal in a Swiss court of law at any moment. With that said, ProtonMail does not read your emails, which means you are unlikely to come up against a problem here. To quote the ProtonMail Reddit account:
Email is not a public forum but private communication, so sending an email with objectionable content is not the same as posting objectionable content on Facebook. That’s why hate speech rules generally do not get applied to email. If racist people want to have a racist conversation in private on ProtonMail, that is their business and there is nothing we can do about it. We would be none the wiser because of the encryption that ProtonMail utilizes.
However, if you use email to threaten somebody with bodily harm (or send in a bomb threat for example), that’s illegal and a ToS violation.
This seems fair enough to me - violent threats should be punished, opinions should not (no matter how odious!). Nevertheless, I will say that if there was an equally secure stateside alternative without a hate speech exception written into their TOS - a sort of “Gab for Email” - I would recommend it. As it stands, ProtonMail seems to be the best we can hope for while still avoiding feeding our delicious data to the Google beast. Of course, you could run your own mail server, but this is fraught with dangers that are myriad, complicated, and outside the scope of this article.
Bad: Google, Bing, etc.
It goes without saying that much of Google’s data harvesting operation is focused on what you search for in their search engine. Why let them profit off of your data? Why give up your privacy? Use DuckDuckGo instead, a search engine built by a group whose stated goal is to provide a private searching experience.
Bear in mind that a devotion to privacy is not necessarily the same thing as a devotion to free speech, or a devotion to neutrality when it comes to political things. Do not expect DuckDuckGo to offer politically neutral results when you search for things like “latest news” - expect it to give you a similar smattering of mainstream media outlets to the one you will get from Google.
I don’t think I need to waste too much space here talking about how evil the social media companies are. It’s not just the blatantly political censorship that happens, or the consistently inconsistent enforcement of the rules. Any thinking person can see that Twitter is essentially an arm of the DNC, allowing leftists to question the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency for years (this is fine), then punishing right wingers for doing the same thing during the 2020 election (this is very bad). In the run-up to the 2020 election, Reddit attempted to install its own set of left-minded administrators to /r/the_donald, the largest right-wing subreddit on their site, and canned the sub when that didn’t work. Regardless of your politics, if you care about civil rights then you ought to find this deeply concerning. This goes beyond a single private company enforcing their terms of service as they see fit - this is an oligopoly of social media companies which regularly conspires to deplatform people who are politically inconvenient, and destroy any startup that attempts to dethrone them. However, politics aren’t the only concern.
What many people might not know is exactly how much these companies are misusing your data and profiting from it. Facebook has been accused of watching Instagram users through their phone cameras, in order to gain “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.” Twitter regularly sells tweet data to third parties, making enormous amounts of money from marketing and advertising agencies. I could go on, but it suffices to say that these people cannot be trusted with your data, and their platforms are utter garbage if you’re trying to have a free conversation anyway. It is both ethical and in your interests to move on to a free speech platform.
If you want an actual free speech platform, Gab is your alternative to Twitter and Voat and Saidit are your alternatives to Reddit. When all else fails, you can embrace the anonymity that a “chan” (i.e. an anonymous imageboard such as 4chan) provides. Don’t pay any mind to so-called “conservative” social media platforms such as Parler - my analysis, based on the TOS of that particular platform, is that it and others like it are usually a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” sort of situation. They don’t actually seem to be all that interested in providing a free speech platform, only in controlling speech in their own way.
To wrap it up…
If you spend any amount of time on the internet, your digital life should be important enough to you to take control of it. Whether you are looking for unbiased sources for news, or you are looking to protect your privacy, or you want to protect yourself from censorship, or you simply don’t want faceless companies to profit off of your data, it is important that you take the first steps towards securing your digital life. This article has outlined the most important software and services which you should swap to in order to get started with becoming antifragile: your browser, your email service, your search engine, and your social media.
Look out for part two of this article, wherein I will describe free speech and privacy oriented alternatives to other parts of your digital life, especially as relates to content creators and the content you consume every day.
Before you go…
Know of any other hot-button issues with free speech, privacy, or cryptocurrencies? Want me to write about them? Let me know! I love to hear feedback from people and get ideas on what cryptocurrency topics I should research. You never know, I might even write an article about your suggestion!
If you’re new to cryptocurrencies, don’t worry - it’s easy to get in on this! Here are the basic steps if you’re interested in Bitcoin or altcoins:
- Buy some Bitcoin or Ethereum from Coinbase.
- Trade them for altcoins on Binance, KuCoin, or Changelly. Out of these, Binance is my preferred exchange. It has recently become possible to buy bitcoins on Binance directly, as well!
- If feasible, store your coins offline in a wallet for security purposes. Use an inexpensive Android phone with the Coinomi wallet app, or go ultra secure with a hardware wallet like the Ledger Nano S or Trezor.
If you’re looking for a more lengthy guide to purchasing coins from start to finish, just take a look at my page - I’ve written a lot about this! Any of my instructional altcoin articles (such as this one) will first explain in detail how to get Bitcoin if that’s all you want.
Come back soon because more content like this is always coming! If my work helped you or gave you something to think about, share it with others:
Sharing helps more people find my articles, and I’d love to be able to assist as many people as possible with cryptocurrencies. Also, if you have any ideas for future articles or specific questions, I’d love to hear them. One last thing: if you’d like to chat with me in real time, check out my Discord!
Posted: Nov 20, 2020