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Withdrawing from Social Media

March 24, 2018 by Noah

This has been a rough week for Facebook with all the Cambridge Analytica drama, and it's as good a time as ever for me to start withdrawing from Facebook and other social media.

Announcing that you're going to #DeleteFacebook, on Facebook, is cliche af so I'm not going to do it there. This week I've been wiping my Facebook profile clean (not that deleting posts actually deletes anything from their database) and all that remains, currently, is one profile picture, a cover picture, and a Keybase verification post that, of course, I don't mind being public. After I find out alternative messaging options for some of the friends I enjoyed chatting with on Messenger, I'll delete the account.

Facebook's drama isn't the only crazy thing I heard about this week, though: there's also the CLOUD Act, and it is far worse.

The U.S. has snuck the CLOUD Act in through an omnibus spending bill that had to pass, because of course it did -- just like other unpopular bills like CISA. This would make it so that ALL Internet companies will be forced to hand over records to anybody with an ounce of authority without a warrant. This should make one worry about all the social networks, and also all the cloud providers of any shape and size, like Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Other social networks besides Facebook that I'm withdrawing from include Twitter and Instagram. I haven't used either one very heavily, amassing only 174 tweets since 2008 when I opened the account, and less than 100 posts on Instagram, and those posts were pretty easy to clean up. I'm keeping the accounts only to name squat the @kirsle handle, but I've deleted the apps from my phone and will not log in to those accounts again.

That leaves me with Google to deal with next.

I'm a Google fanboy. I have a Pixel phone and Project Fi is my carrier. I've always defended giving my data to Google rather than Facebook, because at least Google is open and clear about what data they have and what they use it for, and give you the option to see the data, delete it, and stop it from being collected. Facebook collects all sorts of shady shit that they have no business collecting, and they don't tell you about any of it, in contrast. My data going to Google would help them improve their products and they'd be able to provide a better experience to me as a user in exchange. What is the exchange you get with Facebook? The privilege of seeing all the dumb political rants and outdated memes from people you haven't spoken to since high school?

Google's been the lesser of the two evils; when served with a warrant, they would verify the warrant is justified and isn't overreaching, and they'd publish transparency reports. But now with the CLOUD Act, warrants aren't even a part of the picture anymore, and any local small-town sherrif with a grudge can just ask for your data and get it. So, while I like to trust Google as a company, I can't trust my own government, and so I'm going to start to withdraw from Google as well. It will be hard, but I'll see where I can make some changes with how I engage with their products. Leaving my phone at home during the day may be a small start, and for a while now I've already been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine and only deferring to Google Search for the tougher queries.

I also have some ideas to explore about how to self-host my e-mail. And by self-host, I mean on physical hardware in my apartment that I can physically protect. There are some challenges to this (home IP address ranges being implicitly blacklisted as "spam"), but I have some thoughts on how to find a setup that should work pretty well. That will come in another blog post.

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meltingwax posted on March 24, 2018 @ 04:23 UTC

Regarding email, you may be interested in ProtonMail (freemium). It's end-to-end encrypted and hosted in Switzerland. They supply the required apps for phones and tablets. I've been using it for a few months and I'm very happy.

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