I had an old ‘smart phone’ lying around and I thought about reconnecting it for one single purpose for our business. It would not phone, it would not text, it would not even go to a website and search. It’s only job would be to take a photo, and upload the photo to our private cloud storage.
Of course, I know that Google is invasive and nasty so I was sure to create a new account, without linking any of my personal contact information to the account. For the single purpose of uploading photos, surely they won’t want to know who I am, right?
I remember years ago before I had started my google exodus journey (89% complete now, btw) they had added this neat little ‘security’ feature under the log in. It was saying ‘Add a phone number to make sure you won’t ever get locked out and to make sure we can verify your identity.” That was the start of my ‘questioning’ period. Why does my email provider need my phone number? And why do other companies not ask for this? And if I give them this number, and they are connected to my telecom, will this provide tracking even if my GPS is off? Etc, etc. I remember always choosing the ‘skip’ option when this prompt came on.
It seems like skipping this option is now over.
Today while setting up this phone, I successfully:
- created a new and anonymous google account on the phone
- created fake answers to the security questions, not linked to me.
- skipped adding the phone feature
- saw the successful account creation message
Then, as I went into the google play store to download the only app I need to do the only purpose this phone will perform, there was a ‘something is wrong with your account’ message. I entered the password about 5 times and it still spewed the same error.
Finally I went to the gmail login page and tried to log in that way where I was greeted with the message “Suspicious account activity is suspected” (something like that). I then was *forced* to ‘verify my identity” with a phone number. It gave me two options: sms (text) or voice. So, I went and got my Fongo number, which works for both SMS and voice calls no problem, and I entered that and chose the SMS option.
It then spewed out a message “You can’t use this phone number.”
Really? Go figure. It’s a fully working phone number which can receive texts.
Then I chose the ‘voice call’ option since there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. And, as long as the owner of the phone number is there to receive the call and enter in the code, the identity is verified, right?
It also would not accept my fongo number for that voice call either.
Finally, just to test the theory, I gave google one more piece of my identity. I entered my ‘big telecom’ personal cell phone number into the sms verification code window and *boom*. Instantly I received the code which I entered and the account was activated.
Now it is proven that there is no way to be part of google without giving them *undeniable proof of your identity* but even worse, your big telecom phone number.
I encourage everyone reading this to start their own google exodus journey because it’s for sure that you’ve already given them way more than you thought.
Don’t wait. Ubuntu is there as the solution and on any platform.
ps. Yes, you could probably use a pay-as-you-go phone to accomplish this account verification – I didn’t test. This would be better that what I did.
Pokemon Go Away Forever.
I didn’t even like the original Pokemon playing cards. After all, the short form is ‘pocket monster’ and why on earth would I want my kids to have a monster in their pockets, let alone in their room or in my house?
The great part about Pokemon Go is that I have never seen it with my eyes, nor cast a gaze on one of its players.
I have never Pokemon’d myself – and I never will.
But from what the general media is saying, a lot of people are Pokemonin’ themselves around town. And the creeps and weirdos are all over it and the parents don’t care. But then again – they didn’t stop their kids playing with their smart phones and tablets so what’s the big surprise that they are now getting lured into old vans down dark streets? Their phones lead straight to the prey and the gatekeeper was blissfully enjoying ‘quiet time’ with their own phone when it happened.
So don’t act all surprised when things fall apart. The buck stops with us adults.
I believe Pokemon Go will be the catalyst towards change for a new group of people who realize that something is going seriously south with our world.
How did my phone lead me here?
How did they find out where I live?
How did he know that I didn’t like whole wheat bread?
Something is very creepy. Something is very sinister.
And these adults will look down at their mobile device and realize that they, too, have a monster in their pocket and the monster isn’t Pokemon.
The real pocket monsters are Apple and Google.
No. Google is *not* safe to use ‘just for business’, I confirmed clearly today.
About seven or eight years ago when I moved my whole life over from proprietary operating systems to Ubuntu, I was still using services like Gmail, Google search engine, Twitter, and a few other ‘services’ like these every day within the Ubuntu environment. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to hear first hand the following most unfortunate story from a German employee of the company that I owned at the time:
“My good friend was just about to get hired for the German police force. She passed all the physical exams and did all the other training courses. There was no reason whatsoever that she should not have been hired. This was her dream job. Then, one day, she was sat down by the decision maker and in one sentence her dreams were crushed . This is what they said:
“We are sorry but we cannot hire you. You are connected via Facebook, to a known criminal.”
She explained that she didn’t even know this person beyond a hello in a bar and that he was in fact the friend of a friend, not her own friend.
Too bad. So sad. The end. A dream crushed.
All because of Facebook’s most excellent free ‘social service’.
I immediately shut down my Facebook account and started warning everyone I know to do the same.
But Google and gmail remained. Why?
Four main reasons: ignorance, habit, free (as in $, but not freedom), and monopoly of android OS
Slowly over time, I was able to able to get rid of the usage of Gmail and Google search in my daily life, but even now there are traces of these accounts because of my android mobile device(s). Thankfully I’m now aware and nearly moved over to the much better Ubuntu mobile, but it takes time and even now for business I’m back and forth between systems while the kinks are worked out. For an article about some bigger-picture reasons why you should start ditching Google, here is an article I wrote a while back. The main reason was I could literally feel their peeping eyes when custom ads and subtle very suggestive marketing started showing up all around me in browsers, the inbox, and even in obviously targeted emails that I started receiving. Everything was *very* tailored to my thoughts. Someone was *definitely* watching me. And I I did not like the feeling.
But all of the above spew is just preamble to my main point which is to answer this question:
“Is it ok to use Google (specifically Gmail) if I only use it for business. “
To be honest, I’ve been a hypocrite. I knew from my previous research and hours of time spent reading articles that Google is to be avoided at all costs because of the most glaring attacks on personal privacy in literally everything they do. However, because I started a new company and the other founder was most comfortable with Gmail, I figured it wouldn’t affect us too badly if we just used it as a quick launching pad since we were in a mad rush to set up and he had configured this in the past for our former company. I figured if I used it just in my Thunderbird email client and didn’t touch the webmail client that I would somehow be more safe from the peeping-tom eyes of Alphabet Corporation and it would not negatively affect me *personally* (i.e. at my personal residence) nor compromise my *personal* position and decision to live a life of privacy and quiet personal enjoyment.
I am sad to say, and not surprised to report that I was wrong and my error compromised my personal privacy and the privacy of my family and set me back many steps from the years of work I had invested in un-googling (or de-googling, whichever verb you choose). And the way I figured it out happened in the most glaring way this morning – thankfully – or it might have taken me longer to figure it out (I wasn’t the fastest kid in school).
I was reading my Bible (very personal) and went to the normal site where I listen to an audio Bible. Since I had un-Googled, the ads that appear in the main advertising pane of this site have always been very general. They were relevant to the ‘general audience’ of a Bible reader. Example ads would be ‘Tour to Israel’ (Christians love those), Audio Bible on CD (not sure who would buy those but they are probably old), and the like.
But today was different – Very different.
Today the advertisement was for a hotel. But not only is it odd that an advertisement for a hotel should show up, but it was not just any hotel. It was a *local* hotel. Huh? And not only was it a local hotel, but it was a very, very small boutique local hotel that nearly no one in the city even knows exists. Huh??? But the part that really made me squirm was the fact that it was a hotel that I had *just* reached out to for a sales call for my new company – by email. Ok. Now I’m concerned.
And why am I bothered by this? If you are asking this question you are likely thinking one or all of the following:
- he probably sent them an email or sent an email about them from his Gmail (webmail)
- he probably searched them first via Google search in a browser or used Google maps and Google tracked it
- who cares? I have these custom ads showing up around me all the time and I don’t mind. I have nothing to hide!
The last point was thrown in for fun and if you believe that you should close my blog post and go back to your fully compromised life – but don’t don’t say I didn’t warn you. However, if you legitimately do want to live a more private life and be spied on less, and were assuming the first two bullet points above, to my surprise and to yours, you are wrong.
I have not *ever* opened my business email with Gmail web mail. I have not done it once and definitely not from my home.
I have not *ever* searched this hotel with Google search engine, not even for a map (I use www.duckduckgo.com for my search engine which doesn’t track you)
The only place that I ever communicated about the hotel was by email, to the contact point at the hotel, using Thunderbird email client, from my home office. The wild part is that I’m not exactly sure how they did it. I can only guess that the IP address of my computer (I sadly don’t use a VPN service yet because I’ve been too busy to figure it out) was attached to the email that I sent. The email then went through the Google servers using the typical email server settings that are plugged into the Thunderbird email client, and then the body of the text (I sadly have not yet set up PGP encryption for the business email either – yes bad me) was analysed by Google. Once the IP address was connected to the scanned text of the email body, it was sent off to it’s Google ad-words department where the appropriate advertisement was then pushed to my Bible web page as an advertisement when they saw me show up online from the same IP address of my home office this morning.
And the part that *really* chaps my hindquarters is the fact that we are *paying* Google for this email ‘spying service (corporate gmail)’ every month knowing full well that I’m not only participating in this spying, but also endorsing it.
I’m guilty of not putting more energy and effort into protecting myself and my family, but the global effort needs to start soon so that there is a critical demand for a better privacy. Why is it that I feel that I am one of the odd ones out because I am making some effort? Is it not possible for the average person to take what they see before their eyes and take small action steps about it?
“But I have nothing to hide!”
Please take a moment to read these two articles from reputable sources:
Nothing to hide is pure bunk. You simply don’t yet value one of the most fundamental *rights* available in our countries. And if you do not begin to value it soon and help, you will lose this right and deeply regret it (think North Korea).
So, now I’ve confirmed my worst fear about using Google for business, even the paid corporate Gmail. I’ve confirmed that Google is taking my business emails, analysing the content somewhere, taking my IP address (which in my case was my personal residence) and then using it against me for their further gain. Even though we pay them and even pay them *more* than what our local email service provider would charges for the same storage and service, they do this to us.
I rest my case, Your Honour.
But wait! There’s more!
By participating in Google’s game, I am also compromising our *client’s* information and, *without their consent*. If the content of this email was scanned and it involved a prospective customer, that means that *all* company emails are being scanned and used for purposes of which I was not fully aware at the time. What other things are they doing to us and our customers? See this article I wrote before about REALTORS and what I view as a breach of fiduciary duty to their clients.
I now believe that it is not right for us to, in good faith, publish that we are protecting our client’s privacy. By using Gmail in business one is knowingly (now that you read my post at least) putting not only your own company’s information at risk but also the information of your clients.
Do you have a privacy statement that looks something like this:
“COMPANY NAME demands directors, employees, officers, etc to safeguard client data during and after their employement, etc, etc.”
I now question whether a company is compliant with such statements and whether or not a client could, if they could prove you were using a service like Gmail, sue your company for being in such obvious breach of their data. Your clients, when they send you an email, are not expecting your company to be working cooperatively with a vendor who is analyzing their data. And if they are, they will likely not be suing you. But there might be a client like me who doesn’t want you broadcasting their data without their consent. I would be very unpleased if I was the customer of a company using Gmail knowing what I know now.
It is also very unfair to impose Gmail on an employee, especially if they will be working from home. I suppose if they only work from within the office, that would be fine but if they take a phone or laptop home and do company emailing, they are putting the privacy and security of their personal lives on the line for their work – which is totally unfair if not disrespectful. Yes, they could quit and move elsewhere but wouldn’t it be better to brag to them about how much you respect their privacy and their family’s and even help them set up their home more securely?
I’m deeply concerned that our company is not alone in this very risky situation. I am aware that this stuff is difficult to find time to learn about and to subsequently change. Out of habit we operate. Out of saving a few bucks (or thinking that you are) we operate.
It is typically the case that a big company change will only occur after the nasty event has already happened (ie. a data breach, privacy breach lawsuit, etc). But if we start diligently today dedicating a little time to making positive change, I’m fully convinced that in one calendar year the world would be a much safer place to use the internet.
Something to chew on at your next board meeting…
If you were following my other post this week, you’ll see that I’ve had to take a short trip away from ubuntu phone while a few kinks are ironed out. I had started down this journey thinking that I would just install Cyanogenmod and then download a few apps from google play and then kill the connection to the mothership.
Turns out it isn’t quite that easy. It’s rare that you will find a search online that doesn’t bring up good results but if you search the keywords in my post here you’ll find there is a dearth 🙁
Note a friend of mine pointed out that by being on the ‘non google android’ you are taking a second risk which is to be ‘less controlled’ which means slightly more vulnerable. Fair enough, but I’m going to take my risk because I want just Telegram installed. Let’s see if this works:
- download the ‘gapps’ thing from here: http://www.teamandroid.com/gapps/
- Navigate in terminal using cd command to where the downloaded gapps thing is.
- Side load it as is onto the device sd card in the same way you may have done it with my previous tutorial. My command in the terminal looked like this: adb push filename.zip /sdcard/ when it is complete you’ll see how much moved and how long it took (in terminal)
- boot into recovery mode. I assume you know how to do this if you have Cyanogen (it’s the volume power button combo)
- choose ‘install’ button
- choose the gapps thing
- slide the blue arrow thing to confirm rocking and rolling
- rock and roll
Your device should reboot and have a whole bunch of nasty google spyware installed that will make sure you are forever in chains.
Anyway, the play store is now there so go in, get what you need and then follow these steps to disconnect from the mothership.
- go to google play store.
- download the apps you need to survive and nothing more (play store may crash from time to time as it’s not supported)
- do nothing more because…
… It turns out that I have yet more learning. The real learning here is that I should have invested my time in bug-filing for ubuntu phone and we’d all be further ahead 🙁 But anyway, I learned that you can’t really ‘go in and go out’ with gapps. It kind of flashes itself on the phone so to get rid of it is to wipe your phone (it seems).
I think what I”m really looking for here is a cyanogen mod install with *just* telegram and a few others I want… for now I’m just going to leave it semi-vulnerable and plan another ubuntu exodus.
In the past, google would very slowly ‘creep’ you from behind. They’d take a little ‘peek’ over your shoulder at your personal information and then kind of ‘accidentally’ share that information with advertisers. No biggy. People get their ‘free’ services and feel like it’s ok to have a bit of ‘peeking’ since all this ‘great’ stuff is free.
How about if they peek down your shirt, though?
Or, wait! Would it be ok if they watched you while you were changing in your bedroom?
Good news! Now they can with their new hyper-overdrive-creep-cam!
Why ‘peek’ when they can go for the full meal deal and simply watch you live?
Well… they are trying to deny that but hey. They lied about the green LED light so maybe they’d lie about that too?
Enjoy your google nest cam, ladies! Enjoy the extra security of ‘home security’.
The following solutions are available to you if you are a victim:
- remove the camera and throw it away
- litigate Alphabet into the dark ages
If you haven’t been following the ‘question the magic’ series that I’ve recently started, welcome! You can see our inaugural post here about a really ‘fun’ watch sponsored by our friends over at the wonderful world of Disney.
Today a new ‘magic’ technology was presented to me, being researched by the small and non-invasive company called Google. I’m sure Google has the highest morals and ethics and would never consider any other application (like advertising) to take advantage of you installing this (or someone near you).
It’s called Google Tone
This little piece of technology can ‘magically’ turn your website URL into an audible tone which then flutters peacefully like a dove through the air, then through the little microphone hole in your device (you name the device, they all have mics these days) and then perches somewhere in there (they probably won’t show us the source code to check exactly what’s it’s doing).
Do you have the source code for this? Who has vetted it and every detail of what it’s doing? But even if it was ‘super safe’ let’s be honest – all you need to do is decode the audio and boom – whoever is within ear shot of you knows *exactly* what you are looking at online. No more would someone need to break through your secure home network to find out, because the information is just floating through the air like a wifi signal.
Honestly, I think the only solution for this one is to never use it. Even if incredible technology exists to encrypt that audio signal (this is possible) it’s just such a potential risk to your freedom. However, it could be safe(r) if the project was 100% open source and the security levels of encryption and everything was made available to inspect and improve. This project looks like similar ideas/technology but much safer But I would strongly recommend against any ‘magic’ that uses a microphone or a camera.
You may have not read my original post about Google’s somewhat silent and out-of-the-blue creation of their new ‘supreme corporation’ ‘Alphabet, but if not, do catch up by reading it here.
I knew there was ‘something’ about their name. Something strategic. Something creepy. Something tongue and cheek. But it wasn’t until I had a 6am coffee with Joe Adam on Saturday that it came to light. Joe wasn’t aware of ‘Alphabet’ the corporation. So as soon as I explained what they were doing, he laughed and said this:
“It’s funny how secret societies and governments always leave a kind of mocking fingerprint – a kind of ‘gotcha!’ when they operate. Google is not hiding that they are an alphabet agency.”
Well, I didn’t know what an alphabet agency was until he had pointed it out and sure enough he’s right.
Alphabet *is* the supreme alphabet agency, in bed with all forms of government, if not the USA government themselves.
But you’ve been warned to un-google.
Don’t you dare say I didn’t warn you.
Even Alex Jones has warned you for crying out loud!
The solution is Ubuntu. Change now or severely regret it.
You have been a frog in lukewarm water and Google (and Apple, and Microsoft, and others) have turned up the heat without you noticing.
Well, you kind of noticed. You kind of noticed how some conveniently relevant ads started showing up in your inbox and on all the websites you started visiting. You kind of noticed how the mail that shows up in your snail mail box is really quite… relevant. You have had a sneaky suspicion that ‘someone is watching’ but you just couldn’t figure out who. Or why they would watch someone as unimportant as you.
It just so happens you are much more important than you gave yourself credit for – so much so that you have become a sought after commodity in a machine whose belly cannot be satisfied.
You have become Google’s whippin’ boy and you are starting to enjoy the pain.
You feel like you can’t get out.
You feel like there is no hope so you might as well go like an ox to the slaughter.
Let me stop you before the axe falls on your neck and remind you the following simple facts:
- There is hope
- You do have a choice and you can choose otherwise *right now*
- You do matter, and your voice and action *do* count
Now that we’ve covered that, let me unveil the inspiration behind this post. You may have read my recent article called Google’s new Daddy Alphabet and Why You Should Care but if not, read it.
Today was an almost prophetic confirmation of my gut’s instinct when a friend of mine forwarded me this article written from a European perspective.
Read this, too.
Really get it.
It’s not easy to divorce from Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc, but you only have two options: freedom or slavery.
It took me about 5 years to fully free myself from all things proprietary. Even today there are still small traces of these guys in my life, but I can confidently say I’m 99% free.
Once you are on the road to freedom it gets easier, just to let you know. It’s like any addiction. Heroin addicts convulse, sweat, puke their guts up and hate their life for quite a while before sobriety starts to look good. Don’t think Google or Apple will let you go without a fight. Even your emotions will come into play. You will miss their haunting voices for a while. But once you have tasted freedom, you won’t go back to jail.
I encourage all of you to take action today. Get connected with your local ubuntu community as a first step because it’s full of people who have answers for *all* of these pervasive problems.
See you at the finish line!
Whether you are a conspiracy theory buff or not, it’s probably a safe bet to say that you think Google is a big and powerful global company that has the potential to do some ‘serious stuff’ if they wanted. Well, today marks a new day in history when you might want to amplify your efforts to withdraw from their ever-reaching tentacles with Google’s announcement of its ceremonial install of it’s new parent company, Alphabet.
First, what’s in a name? The word ‘alphabet’ comes from ‘alpha+beta’. On a surface level, you could say it’s the ‘AB’ of the Greek “ABC”. Alpha means ‘first’. No matter what, it means ‘beginning’. But, it also means ‘God’ – as in the God of the Christian Bible. In the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself says this “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty”. It would have been too obvious for Google to make their parent company “alphaomega”, or perhaps they tried but they didn’t like the way the two vowels ran together in the middle… but I digress. Point here is that ‘alpha’ has a fairly well established meaning of ‘God of the Christian Bible’ or ‘Jesus Himself’. But, it doesn’t end there. What does ‘beta’ mean in our modern world? Way back it was just equivalent to the “B” in the Greek alphabet but in our world in which Google lives, ‘Beta’ means ‘testing’ or ‘the nearly-finished final product stage’ of a software code release. See this longer definition. I can’t help but reading into this new name as ‘The final stages (beta) of establishing our false position as the all-seeing eye of a god in the earth”.
Do take some time to read this fresh news release and let it sink in. One of the highlights for me was the section of the article under the heading ‘What will it actually mean?” and the response was ‘It is unclear.” Well, it’s not unclear at all. A Korean friend of mine found an article where the direct answer from Google as to why they are doing this is ‘to reduce risk’. They have created a ‘ghost company’ that will be run by the then-current selected leader who will thus control not only the current form of the company and it’s subsidiaries as we know them, but also any future venture that should fall under their interest radar.
And with ‘less risk’.
Which begs the next question: What is said protection for? What risk?
Answer: Risk of something bad happening to them.
Question: What bad thing?
Answer: They would probably say ‘bankruptcies’ but the truth is ‘a lawsuit of a very severe nature’, of course.
Question: But we can still sue the Google corporation if they do evil works, can’t we?
Answer: yes, but the people who are really responsible are now hiding behind the legal shield of ‘Alphabet’.
Question: No further questions.
This announcement is, in my opinion, the news article of the decade and its repercussions will ripple into your life if you don’t take urgent action today to free yourself from their grips.
I thought I had written some articles on this blog about de-googling your life, but apparently I hadn’t. There are some good articles out there that I followed which helped tremendously. I’ll do my best to publish stuff on this topic when I have time but take the responsibility yourself to start the job today.
It’s time to call a spade a spade.
The Real Estate Council of BC talks about the responsibility of real estate agents here. Scanning down the page there is a section dedicated to ‘fiduciary duty’. This term sound big but it’s pretty simple. Lawyers have it, too. They have to look out for the best interests of their clients and treat them in a certain way or they are in breach of that fiduciary duty. For a better definition, and an interesting historical quick read, check out the wiki page on the topic .
On the RECBC page, there is one subsections of the Fiduciary section that need to be looked at asap. That is, specifically: ‘Not misuse confidential information’ (#16).
Many people have a blase view on personal privacy and protection of their information. That’s fine. It’s your right to strip naked and change in front of your window with the curtain open at night, but don’t blame anyone when creepsters are hanging around with binoculars. In the same way, go ahead and use Facebook, Google (ie. Gmail), and Linkedin for your personal life and don’t blame anyone when your entire life is hacked or strangely creepy advertisements for dandruff control or marriage counseling start showing up on digital advertising screens when you step in elevators around town. That’s your choice.
But it’s *not* your choice if you are a real estate agent. If you expose your client’s info (like mine) to a third party, I can take your house-flipping hindquarters to court for violation of fiduciary duty and I have good reason to believe I would make a strong case and win and claim some damages.
“I would never do such a thing to my client.” Says Ms. Realtor.
I’m sitting at my desk right now looking at a Realtor’s calendar. A nice man he was. He did a good enough job. Right there on the calendar is his email address “email@example.com”.
Violation! All of his clients should go after him including myself.
But how did he violate the fiduciary relationship, you ask?
By using gmail to do business emails.
Shocked at my statement? Don’t be. Read this.
So if you work in a profession where you are under fiduciary law, you better abandon these email servers and any other piece of technology that syncs back to the info-scanning motherships of the world or you may be in a world of legal hurt in the next few years.