Break out of your personal echo chamber

Sick of Google creeping you?

We’re going to make a simple suggestion not to get tracked. Give this search engine a go:

duckduckgo.com

duckduckgo-logo

Do a search for your business and see how it ranks in the results. For even more “pure” results, try it using a private window on your browser. If you try your search only on Google, you might see your business showing up high on the rankings, because Google will know it’s you doing the search, and Google tends to like stroking our egos and telling us what we want to hear.

Duckduckgo’s philosophy and selling point is that it is the search engine that does not track you. Due to this philosophy, it’s a favourite among many of us web nerds–well…that and hipster, organic, fair trade, locally roasted, whole bean coffee.

But this isn’t just about search engines, Opto firmly believes in the open, secure web. That means, in “OptoTopia”, public information should be unfiltered and accessible to all, and that as users our private information should remain, well, private.

Large services such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc.. will offer you handy services for free, but this still comes at a price–your personal information!

What many people don’t know is that, in many, cases, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few modifications to your internet behaviour, you can fairly easily skirt a good chunk of your personal data acquisition by large corporations.

Aside from switching to a search engine like duckduckgo.com, here are 3 such behaviour changes to consider:

 

1. Choose your browser wisely

If you’re browsing with Chrome, Microsoft Edge/Explorer, or Apple Safari, chances are that you are being tracked in some way or another. We recommend using an open source, secure browser. The big obvious choice here is Firefox by Mozilla, but if you have an old, slow computer, there are lighter open source, secure browsers to choose from too such as PaleMoon and Qupzilla.

 

2. Where possible, don’t use services from large corporations just because they’re free.

It’s tempting, and we fall into the trap ourselves, but as much as possible, try to avoid relying heavily on services by massive corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. There are other services out there developed by the open source community that care far less about obtaining your personal information and are very comparable alternative tools.

Here are some examples:

  • Instead of Google Maps, consider trying openstreetmap.org. There is also a very decent map app for your phone based on openstreetmap called OsmAnd
  • Instead of Google Docs or MS Word, you might want to consider Zoho Docs or perhaps a free, offline office suite with the ability to sync online and that is MS Word compatible, such as LibreOffice.
  • Instead of OneDrive or Google Drive, consider paying a service to set you up your own, secure cloud server. At the very least, make sure to only keep documents on Microsoft or Google’s servers that you consider to be public information, or that you don’t mind ever getting leaked.
openstreetmap

The open source map project “Open Street Map”, an alternative and less prying service to Google Maps.

3. Be frugal with social media

This is probably something you’ve already heard in the mainstream media, but you need to be careful with the type of information you share on social media. Your opinions and behaviours combined with algorithms on social media could provide an interrogating 3rd party a fairly complete picture of you in minutes, and if it’s not a government body that could coerce a corporation like Facebook to hand over its data one day, all it takes is one cyber attack on Facebook by a rogue hacker, and your information could live publicly on the internet forever.

…and never mind that, in a more day-to-day example, being too expressive on social media is generally bad for business. The more political, religious, and…”debaucherous” views you reveal on Facebook or such platforms, the more judging you may receive from your clients, and that could result in lost business if clients feel their core values don’t align with yours.

 

“Follow these simple steps”

The more you invest your data on the servers of these large corporations, the more vulnerable you become in a world of ever growing hacking and cyber-security issues. Aside from that, you end up getting into your own distorted internet reality as data and information thrown back at you is completely tailored and magnified according to your tastes.

To break out of your own echo chamber, to protect your privacy, and to sum up, follow these three basic rules of thumb:

  1. As an alternative, use open source, secure services if they are just as good as the large corporate ones.
  2. If the said services are not free, it’s worth paying a small fee for them in exchange for your data being more secure and/or less of a target.
  3. Post content online prudently. Whether it be tweets, Facebook status updates, files on the cloud, or live video chats, assume all content that you post on the web is public. At the end of the day, any service can be prone to hacking and later presented out of context. Post wisely.

And remember, it’s not just about you. Think about your own clients’ personal information and their data if you’re operating services such as e-commerce or event registration. The behavioural choices you make online have the potential to put your clients’ personal information in jeopardy too.

 

Need to make more sense of all this stuff?

Connect with us about this or any other info you require at: connect@opto.media or just reply to this email.

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