(the bit where I figure out where to start)
I’m in the process of deGoogling, in preparation for an /e/ phone, and journalling my journey. I’m writing it partly to keep pushing myself on, and partly because, for anyone wanting to benefit from the /e/ project, they will likely have to go through something of a similar process. Maybe my trials and errors will be helpful to others.
One thing I’m conscious of is that it is going to involve ongoing vigilence, ongoing mindfulness about the digital choices. No point changing out the operating system and then loading a whole heap of data-leaking apps on top of it…
This is a discipline I’m going have to get used to practicing, so I might as well start now.
I work in eye-care, and when someone comes in with a Herpes virus ulcer on their cornea - not much fun - the first step is to ‘debulk’ the wound. Remove tissue from around the ulcer site because that’s where most of the virus particles are. Having removed a good proportion of the viral load, you then apply antiviral medication to mop up the rest.
I’m not in a position to go cold turkey on all Google services upfront, especially the email addresses. That will take time and care to transfer. And I’m not able to remove the unseen operating systems processes that extract data about me. But maybe a good first step is to ‘debulk’ - to reduce the flow of data. Reduce dependence on less integrated services, lighten the digital footprint, stop feeding the beast so much.
Here were my first steps:
(They are all flawed to some extent, but the aim was to start thinking and acting differently)
- Phone: Turn location services on only when I need them, and off when I’m done. ?futile?
- Phone: cull as many unused apps as possible (side effect: phone’s running faster now!)
- Default to responding ‘no’ to any requests to further integrate one service with another. Things are tangled enough as they are.
- Turn off as many automatic / ‘suggested for you’ options as possible.
- Write my own basic homepage that can link me quickly to where I often go on the internet rather being prompted by someone else (ie start taking a bit more control again). I actually don’t need fancy stuff to do what I do. I want the internet to be a tool I use, not a shopping mall I enter.
- See if RSS feed readers are still around to get the content I want to read with less of the ads and trackers. (…and save some time too)
- Prepare to jettison Chrome as my browser, which keeps trying to get me to sign in to it. I’m moving to Firefox to start off with, but I plan to set it up in a way that will be easy to shift later on if I need to. Will have to sort through bookmarks and logins so that I can still access my favourite sites.
- Use the option in Firefox to have separate search box and address box (rather than Chrome-style ‘wonder bar’) so that every time I type an address it’s not a ‘google searched’ address.
- Start logging in and out of gmail on my desktop browser (still using app on my phone).
I don’t know how much difference these changes will make to the volume of data collected about me, but regardless of their effectiveness, they are getting me to be more mindful about my data connections. They will form part of the new discipline needed if I’m going to take this data privacy thing seriously, regardless of the devices I use.
(Part 4 is the bit where I start browsing the internet differently)