Here Thar Be Monsters!
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Cat And Mouse
For Valentine's Day, my wife forced me to accept what is euphemistically called a "smart" phone. I prefer to think of them as dumb devices, because they encourage the user to stop using one's natural mental facilities - like memory - and put everything into a collection device that then sends it off to agencies which use it to harvest one's wealth and data.
I exaggerate a little, because a few years ago, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for business purposes. I needed to be able to read and edit documents, look at CAD drawings and communicate with things like WhatsApp groups quickly and efficiently, without havingto lug around a laptop. Works perfectly for what I need, though I insisted on using a dumb, stupid cell phone for calls - just a small uncomplicated device in which to speak and hear others at a distance.
I refused to become one of these "smart" phone junkie zombies who seem to always be in front of me everywhere I go, wandering aimlessly, paying zero attention to the real world, and hindering my purposeful and deliberate navigation of reality.
I should also note that I operate my Samsung tablet in full paranoia mode. I keep all the apps in full approval mode and I check every single "permission" that I allow them to have. I don't allow automatic updates and I place as little identifying information into the "cloud" as I can absolutely control. I perform all my backups with a direct cable link to my laptop and I don't give Google anything I don't absolutely must to get the function I need.
And I only have one game - Solitaire Suite - which I haven't opened in two years.
At my wife's insistence, I graciously accepted the gift for how it was intended, though inside I was repulsed by it. It has two SIM cards, one for the 4G data link, and the other my trusty old voice phone number.
It was at this point that I decided to go a different route. I downloaded and installed the critical apps that I use daily - WhatsApp, Waze, Uber - but I created all new accounts, rather than link them to my other device. I must say, I had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to set up new accounts. I've spent the past month retraining my device to do what I want.
The big difference is that I decided to go full default on this one. I allowed the apps full permissions, auto updates and whatever else they needed to give me "full service", without my paranoid limits on their powers. What a mistake that was.
My "smart" phone, only one month old, now regales me with constant advertising (known in marketing circles as "notifications") around the clock. I spend nearly 10 minutes every morning clearing all the crap off my phone that I pay zero attention to. The worst are the Yahoo Mail app and YouTube.
Yahoo send me constant updates on news stories that I could care less about, especially since I avoid the Yahoo News wire assiduously. It also tells me every time I get yet another unsolicited advert (note: my Yahoo account is over 20 years old and I use it primarily now for registrations so all the crap goes to one address and I can bulk delete them).
YouTube, on the other hand, insists on "recommending" videos for me that I don't want to see. Even if it sounds interesting, I avoid it religiously simply because YouTube recommended it. I want to screw with their profile of me by not following any regular pattern of viewing or content.
One concession to my paranoia is that I made a custom pouch for my "smart" phone that is lined with mylar to minimize my electronic footprint. This does make it rather difficult to call me, though folks can still WhatsApp my tablet to let me know they want to call. It also means that when I use Uber, the phone needs a minute to talk with the network to figure out where the hell I am. Small bother for peace of mind.
A lot of folks might think I do this to avoid government snooping, but really that is the least of my worries. I hardly do anything worthy of spook attention, though I fancy my paranoia makes it at least a small challenge to invade my privacy.
No, I am paranoid because I believe that I own my data and identity, and I despise the idea that some monstrous mega-corp is harvesting it for their profit. In fact, the idea makes me physically ill. I am not a crop to be harvested for advertisers and marketers. The idea of Google or Microsoft or Amazon making even a tiny bit of revenue off of my personal data and identity makes me hopping mad!
For this reason, I don't shop online, I don't use any app that requires payment, and I sure as hell avoid any of their services to the extent that I can find a small start-up offering the same or better. In that I have succumbed to using some anti-social media, I never post personal information, like where I am or what I am doing. I just link to other information. This blog is the full extent of my "social" presence on the web, and I use Ubuntu OS and Tor when writing and posting. In fact, I primarily use a server in Tobago to pop out into the open.
So, OK, my wife fist-whipped me into accepting the inevitable, but I still fight. In fact, I use Tor and Orfox browser on my phone and tablet, except when things like Waze and Uber require my exact location in order to function the way I want.
I'm neither ignorant nor naive. I know my paranoid antics do little to protect my data, but I like the idea of creating an entity in the mega-corps' vast data farms that isn't entirely accurate. I like getting ads in German or French, because they have no idea I am in Indonesia. I like that the ads have nothing to do with my interests because their profile of me is so bass-ackwards - assuming their ads can get through my various blocks. I like that targeted junk mail and ads never have my correct name. I also like knowing who precisely sold my data to whom by which names and addresses they use. Puts them on my shit list of products and services I will never use again.
Any more, we basically have two options: live the Neo-Luddite life as a nomad in the Gobi desert, or succumb to the all-invasive Machine that is modern life. I take some gratification that I can do the latter without completely giving in.