Dropping the tech giants
Thord D. Hedengren
31

Ooo… Fun and important game. Can I play?

I’m actually in a process of self-auditing my online footprint and tech use, the process of which I’ll be writing more about later (I suspect a lot more about). The phase I’m in right now, in fact, is changing — or eliminating entirely — certain productivity accounts that are primarily mainstream cloud services. This makes your approach —by company—tricky when one is tackling it in terms of prioritized tools/services, like I am. But your question is a nice exercise for thinking about it.

I drop in this order…

1) Facebook

I’ve already dropped it. It was my new year’s resolution in 2015, and I delivered. I never created accounts with other FB products (Instagram, Whatsapp, whatever…), so I’m free and clear of making Zuke richer. And as Nina Simone sang it, I’m feeling good.

2) Microsoft

For the most part, I’m free of Microsoft too, but not 100% yet. As a Mac user for the last 11 years (short span by Apple fangirl terms), I think I’ve touched MS Office twice, only because clients required it. I have no intention of buying anything MS for the rest of my life. Yes, I will use Microsoft if an employer makes me and pays for the hardware.

My only problem at the moment is LinkedIn and Skype. I really dislike them both, and especially LinkedIn. It would be a snap to quit and delete them today if only for myself, but I’ve been delaying it due to thinking they’re important for work, or side projects that require collaboration.

I might be wrong about my thinking, however, because I’ve not used Skype in ages. Email, FaceTime, Signal, Wire… These all seem to do the job. And I’ve never had any paid work result from my LinkedIn account, just a lot of spam. I’m starting to look at Jitsi as an open source Skype replacement, and I could do without a spam engine like LinkedIn entirely.

Oh, I just remembered, I have an obsolete account on SlideShare, but I’m going to delete that account as soon as I get to that item on the check-off list.

Basically, all things about me, from a professional standpoint, will be built/archived in my own site(s), in the way I want to present/design them. No more giving my resume to the monopolies.

3) Alphabet (Google)

This is going to take some more doing, not because I have a problem dumping Google services for myself, but because it’s also tied with work and collaborative projects.

The plan here is to first cut or freeze what I don’t need for myself (delete Google+, replace Gmail with Protonmail, DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search, never use Chrome, drop Analytics tracking, etc), then gradually move to alternative tools for collaboration; some open source and some simply being different giants, like GitHub.

Another aspect of this transition is to use an anonymous work account for strictly work/peer collaboration reasons. And I think that’s the key, keep the work and personal stuff separate and ween off from there, starting with personal account.

4) Amazon

I have an Amazon account (which I’m not thrilled about), because, as an expat in France, it’s often the only way for me to buy books in English when I want them. Members of my family rely on Amazon heavily for online shopping too, which plays a role in gifts, etc. So in that sense, it will be hard to drop Amazon, at least the basic account.

The key for me here is to never buy or use any of Amazon’s hardware (which is undoubtedly loaded with spy- and adware) or its cloud storage services. It’s bad enough they have my email and credit card.

That said, Amazon is not immune to being flung like a poisonous snake. I like public libraries a lot, and reading more French would be good for me.

5) Apple

Apple is only last because at the end of the day I have to have a computer, and, as Mac users know, they have a history of being better machines than PC offerings. The software created for Macs is often quite usable and sharp. I have an iPhone too. Between the rest of my family, we have 7 pieces of Apple hardware in the house, mostly phones and iPads. There are no Apple watches in our house and never will be out of my wallet.

But, for me, Apple’s time may be coming to an end, or at least it won’t be my only option. I’ve always wanted to switch to a Linux system, but I never wanted the hassle it usually involved, tinkering around in an old desktop, or having to use a Lenovo or Dell chassis for a Linux laptop, which, compared to the sleek and usable MBP was unacceptable.

Times have changed. Independent builders of Linux laptop hardware are producing some sleek machines, chip-by-chip and line-by-line, for open source and privacy. Without a doubt, my next laptop will be Purism’s Liberum 13". I’ll use it in tandem with my aging MBP for a while as I get used to the Linux world and build up my substitute suite of open source software. But when the old MBP dies, it may be all Linux from that point on. We’ll see.

Phones, I don’t know. I watch the market a little, but I’m not seeing any real competition with iPhones yet. I was disappointed when Mozilla dropped their smart phone initiative, so we’ll just have to see. I certainly won’t be buying anything Android or Windows, because, you know, that’s 2 and 3 above.

And…

All of this says nothing of the other many cloud platforms and services we also probably have accounts with: Twitter, eBay, PayPal, and on and on and on.

Twitter serves a purposes now for main stream media, politics, celebrity egos, and indefatigable content marketers. If Twitter keeps that lot corraled into one place so they don’t pollute somewhere else, then bravo Twitter. But Twitter is not the place it used to be when I joined in 2009. I’m pretty sure I will try and treat Twitter like I did Facebook and give myself a deadline to get off it. At least my personal account. Or I might do what I’ve seen a few people do already, wipe their tweet history and leave the account idle, or set up an annoying bot that promotes the Green Party, or whatever.

And what about the class clown, Yahoo!? I have a Yahoo account only because I have a few silly Flickr photos I need to move. But that’s all going bye-bye soon. Deleeto! As well as any other of those accounts with big-ish Silicon Valley orgs.

There are also some big, BIG, tech conglomerates from other countries that people may have accounts with and don’t realize or forgot about, like Alibaba or Rakuten, which is huge.

Point is, besides the visible US giants, there are lots of ways we can and should be auditing our online tech, accounts, and content. Most of us are very, very bad about that, and the money-grubbing exploiters are happy we are. That anyone would be good, outside of not using technology at all, is a rare thing. It’s time we all turn that around. It’s time we start writing about how we can do it; help others see the way.