Tech Big Five are inescapable

(Dani McNeilly) #1

I read a series of articles today from Gizmodo about the big five of tech companies: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. The author took a week for each and did her best to completely eliminate interactions with their products/websites/connected sites/etc., ending with a week of avoiding all five. I’m a bit of a Luddite and found the whole experiment fascinating.

(Warning: occasional profanity)

Life without the Tech Giants
All Five in One Week

(Jason Andersen) #2

I love the part where he tried to use a dark web file sharing service only to find it was hosted on AWS. I laughed out loud.

(Joseph Bayly) #3

I’ve been wanting to read these. (I have skimmed the Google one)

I’m hesitant to assume that one needs to block Amazon hosting in order to cut Amazon out of your life, though. I’d be interested in what other techies think.

(b3k) #4

Depends on defining “cut Amazon out of your life”. I would say yes, to cut Amazon out completely means cutting out their opportunities for directly tracking you, which means IP blocking all of AWS. Their IP address, their server, their data center routing infrastructure, their tracking ability. It’s shocking and should be alarming how much of the Internet is controlled by Jeff Bezos.

(Jason Andersen) #5

My company provides internet/MPLS and voice service to businesses. It is fairly common that this will include some sort of connectivity into an AWS environment. We’ve even done SD-WAN VM’s into an AWS environment. Pretty cool, really.

It is amazing how much these companies really do control the internet.

(Lucas Weeks) #6

Thanks for posting, @Dani.McN. I’ve been following these articles closely, though I haven’t read the last one yet. Over the last few years, I have gradually grown more paranoid about “big tech” and more sympathetic towards the free/open source software movement. So I already do some of the things recommended in the article:

  • I use an email service (that’s my referral link) that I pay for with a domain that I chose and also pay for.
  • I try to avoid Google whenever I can. In particular, I use DuckDuckGo for my internet searches. When I first began, I used to go back and forth between DDG and Google. Now I use DDG exclusively.

That said, here are my take-aways so far from my experiences and the Gizmodo articles:

  • Moving away from big-tech company services – the cheapest of whom depend on advertising and tracking – will require you to pay money.
  • Moving away from them will inconvenience your family and friends. I work hard to keep this disturbance to a minimum, but it’s not easy, and this one is very significant. It also has the potential to be a disturbance at work, which will make it a non-option for many or most people.
  • I agree completely with one of the comments under the Apple article: “Apple is the hardest one to leave, but the easiest one to avoid.”
  • Given the point above, I’ll also say there is no good smart phone option if you want to try to move away from the Apple/Google duopoly. And I would argue that if you care about privacy at all, you want to stick with an iPhone for now.

Finally, I think the real question we should try to answer is, “why?” Why should we bother to get away from “big tech?” There’s something that’s appealing about it to many of us… but what is it? Is it anything more than ingratitude and vanity?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

(Jason Andersen) #7

About 13 months ago, I made the decision to dump Facebook. Primary reasons were a) I realized it was was sucking up too much of my mental energy feeling like I had to engage in the culture war with every post I read, b) I realized that it was a breeding ground for envy and discontentment, and that I was not immune, and c) I realized that I had never successfully changed anyone’s mind about anything through a Facebook argument. Social media just becomes each person’s personal echo chamber of affirmation, and as Doug Wilson once referred to it, “an endless parade of trivialities.”

But I did find that it definitely inconvenienced my friends and family, who had used it as a primary means to get a hold of me.

Definitely agree. Once you’ve invested in Apple’s ecosystem, you feel pretty stuck there. But at least that ecosystem is pretty much kept to itself. I switched from Android to iOS two years ago, after growing frustrated with the fact that all the Android phone vendors (except Google themselves) are so terrible at software upgrades / security patching. Each manufacturer develops their own flavor of Android, and you’re at their mercy as to whether or not they will choose to push updates. It also depends on what carrier you use, etc. Samsung usually seems to average about 2 major updates per phone, but after that it’s on to bigger and better models. It’s estimated that over 25% of Android devices are still running Lollipop 5.1 or older, even amid the existence of major known security exploits like Stagefright, and will never be updated.

By contrast, with iOS being a closed platform controlled exclusively by Apple, you are pretty much guaranteed software support for 4-5 years, if not more. And the app experience is generally always more smooth, I imagine due to the fact that app makers don’t have to be concerned with optimizing the experience across a fragmented operating systems.

Definitely agree with this as well. When it comes to actual device security, and at least appearing to have genuine care for the principle of personal privacy, Apple seems to be friendly. But this leads to your final question of “why” we are compelled to get away from big tech.

For me, the concern is that the thought police will eventually exploit big tech as their primary tool to identify and persecute those who don’t subscribe to the socially-prescribed worldview. You know, like us. With a company like Apple, it’s not the prospect of losing my iPhone and having a thief try to access it that worries me. What worries me is Apple (and others like Amazon and Google) logging all my web behavior. It’s staggering to think how accurately easily these companies could anticipate your worldview by simply cross-referencing metadata. And even though I’m not sure how it fits into my eschatalogical views, I suspect the thought police are going to get a hold of this data one day and begin targeting Christians. It’ll basically be like the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, only minus the flying aircraft carrier and superheroes.

That said, I don’t really fight against it. I’ve concluded that it’s actually an inevitability at this point. The internet really isn’t really free, and I guess I’ll just utilize it while I can.

(Jason Andersen) #8

Oh, one more thing. I have often considered that one of the major forces that has actually prevented the crackdown of the thought police from happening yet is the shame of pornography.

Think about it. Pornography is the one thing that people do with their devices that they really want to maintain privacy on. Bank records and other sensitive data is one thing – it needs to be protected by virtue of what it is. But pornography needs to be protected because of human shame.

I wonder if companies like Apple – as a proponent of the sexual freedom / LGBT worldview – are actually so privacy-minded because they they genuinely think that device security is “essential to escaping the bigoted, narrow-minded, male-dominated sexual patriarchy, and exploring ones own sexuality.” They see it as a virtue to protect the rights of individuals to do shameful things online. And maybe for now, that’s actually working out in our own favor?

Food for thought?

(Joseph Bayly) #9

I dumped the FB and Messenger apps off my phone (rather than dumping FB completely). However, that means that when people message me on FB Messenger, I get no notification from FB. If I happen to visit FB, I’ll see the red notification, but on my phone it is impossible for me to view it. FB simply doesn’t allow it. (They do allow messages to pages to be seen on mobile devices without the app, but they refuse to allow individual accounts to view their messages.) Nor can I turn on email notifications for FB Messenger. Nor can I disable FB Messenger on my account. Nor can I turn on an auto-reply to warn people that their messages might not be seen for multiple days (the next time I’m on FB on my computer). Several times I’ve had people message me time-sensitive things expecting me to get the message immediately. I’m seriously considering quitting Facebook completely this irritates me so much. This is just one example of the way FB is actively working against my desires, trying to force me to install their apps.

Yet in spite of all of this, I have a concrete recommendation to make to everybody: remove the Facebook and FB Messenger apps from your phone. You will thank me. Better battery life. Less distraction. Less time-wasting. Less surveillance. Less manipulation. In short, less Facebook. Just do it. :slight_smile:

That’s an accurate description, but interestingly, they do not allow pornography in the app store.

(Archie) #10

These articles were fascinating.