A half-full circle

I like simple and efficient solutions that respect people's attention and privacy.

@Sunsama since 2019.

Previously @Zapier.

I'm intentional about Privacy

For the longest time my mindset about Privacy had been “if I've got nothing to hide, I don't need to worry about it”, and I know a lot of other people think similarly.

Then, back in 2016, I read something that changed my mind. Drastically.

Secrecy vs Privacy

Everyone knows what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door.

So, what you do in the bathroom isn't a secret, but you want it to be a private affair.

This was a game changer for me.

Don't get me wrong, I have secrets (like everyone), but this is about making sure that what I want to be private, remains private.

So it's not about the things I want to hide from everyone, but about the things I am just not interested in having anyone seeing.

Privacy is Power

It quickly became clear to me that Privacy was not only nice to have, but also important and precious, because whoever controlled it, held the power.

One way of thinking about it is that when someone knows enough about you to predict what you are thinking about, they will use that information to influence you, and eventually control your behaviors, actions, and thoughts.

If you want to learn more about privacy and why it's important, I recommend you read Privacy Matters by Privacy International or Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz.

Applying Mindfulness

For a long time I've been wanting to be less dependent on companies I don't believe have core values aligned with mine (especially around methods of advertising and data mining), and this was a big chance to look around and choose ones that I think are more aligned and I'd love to support more.

So I looked for companies who were "smaller", bootstrapped, and profitable, with a business model that had users as customers, not the product. Their apps should also use end-to-end encryption (with zero-knowledge) and be Open or Public Source.

Changes so far

These are roughly the most relevant changes I've made so far:

  1. I'm using Signal instead of WhatsApp or Hangouts for IM (painless; SMS are very rare for me);
  2. I'm using DuckDuckGo instead of Google (much better). I've also used Mojeek and Kagi, and can recommend both, but I've found DDG to be good enough and I didn't feel aligned with the other companies' visions;
  3. I'm using Proton Mail instead of Gmail (this was a big one, and it's been painless after a couple of days of initial setup);
  4. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, ProductHunt, LinkedIn, and a few more lesser-known social media accounts (I hadn't really used them in a long time anyway — painless);
  5. I'm using Mullvad on all of our devices (painless);
  6. I'm using simple stickers or covers for the cameras in our laptops;
  7. I'm using a self-hosted bewCloud instance for important files and documents (painless) instead of Google Drive;
  8. For many years I didn't have any analytics at all, but eventually was curious to see which of my apps/pages was getting more traffic, so I've setup Cloudflare Web Analytics for privacy-respecting analytics, after trying Fathom, Plausible (while I've stopped using them, I'd still recommend them as good alternatives to Google Analytics), and my own custom-built server-side analytics;

Suggestions (for you and me)

Here are some things I learned and suggestions I'd make if you're planning on tackling any of these changes:

  1. Don't try to export your past data (emails, calendar events, reminders). Focus on having data flowing into the new places instead. Let bygones be bygones. Ideally delete old data if you can.
  2. You don't need to pay for basic privacy services and products, but if you want good quality you should, and when you do, you're supporting those who are “going against the flow”, and if you believe the flow is heading in the wrong direction, your support helps fight that.

If you have any good tips or questions, I'd love to hear all about it!