Tag: privacy

How to Eat a Digital Elephant One Bite at a Time

I can’t believe I didn’t blog this before but let’s put my regrets aside.

So, you have come to realize that everyone who knows how technology works was right – it’s all spying on you.  And, well, you don’t like it but – you don’t know where to start.  You feel overwhelmed.  Many people have these kind of feelings

  • I’m too busy to figure this out
  • I’m afraid to try something new in case something breaks
  • I’m used to letting ‘geniuses’ fix my tech
  • I’m too old
  • Everything is changing to fast
  • I just want it to work

Ok, these are all normal feelings but let me be crystal clear that none of them are an excuse for letting a creep spy on you.  Imagine if a peeping tom had binoculars fixed on your bedroom window. It’s as bad as that or worse so do something today, ok?

Great.  Let’s get started.

THE SOCIAL STUFF

This is the most scary stuff.  I watch my foolish friends and family amass the precious photos and history of their children (who had no choice in the matter) onto the servers of some very uncool people.  What’s most frightening is that 9 out of 10 of these people don’t even know exactly how the technology works.  If you are one of those 9, just trust me and start making the better choice for your family with the following alteratives – and bring your friends and family so that you aren’t alone.

UnsafeSafer AlternativeWhere to get itQuick Notes
Facebook*Diasporahttps://diasporafoundation.org/Choose a pod. Sign up. Bring your friends and family. Never go back to facebook. Totally decentralized. Totally your data. You can even import and export all your data!
TwitterMastodonhttps://mastodon.socialFun and extremely awesome and powerful. Totally decentralized. Totally your data.
InstagramTBAlet me know!

THE PERIPHERAL STUFF

The first step is to start switching from unsafe ‘peripherals’ to safer ones.  These will immediately start helping you relax about change because your operating system will be familiar.  It’s kind of like renovating an ensuite washroom before tackling the kitchen.  It kind of eases you into this new and safer life. But before we move on to this easy and simple step, please keep in mind that your ultimate goal *must* be to remove all unsafe operating systems from your life.  This includes Apple, Microsoft and Android.

But for now, let’s start with taking one bite of the elephant.

Unsafe Safer AlternativeWhere to get itQuick Notes
Microsoft Office SuiteLibre Officehttp://www.libreoffice.org/Wipes out Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point and more while leaving you with *more* power and features and a great experience.
WhatsAppTelegram Messengerhttps://telegram.org/Not only open source but feature loaded and works on literally any device as well as even on a web browser.
Kakao TalkTelegram Messengerhttps://telegram.org/See notes above
Skypehublhttps://hubl.in/Browser based. Just allow it to use your mic/camera. Use it on almost any device. Once finished with link, never use it again, or link stays active and you can use it again and again. Multiple people at the same time is also awesome. No file sharing yet but Telegram can do this while on a chat.
Skypejitsihttps://meet.jit.si/Have heard good reports that jitsi works well on self-hosting (even safer)
Google ChromeFirefox
Internet Explorer (or whatever dumb new name they give to the same garbage)Firefoxhttps://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/Most people use this anyways, but just in case you are really lost... Also, the plugins you can add to this make browsing so much more awesome.
Outlook ExpressThunderbirdhttps://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/Just awesome and then you just plug in Enigmail plugin for total email encryption.
icloudNextcloudhttps://nextcloud.com/You can either buy their box or install it on an old computer as a server... or put it on shared hosting. Pure sweetness in cloud file stuff.
Adobe PhotoshopGIMPhttps://www.gimp.org/Unbelievably robust and easy to use. Edit photos like a pro or as a pro and never turn back.
Missed any?? Let me know!

EMAIL

So now we have the stuff out of the way, we need to deal with email by itself.

Most people, sadly, use some of the most compromising and horrific spying machines around.  Some of these might look familiar:

  • hotmail
  • gmail
  • yahoo
  • live
  • outlook
  • etc

First of all, putting technology aside, your email address actually speaks volumes about who you are as a person.  For more on this, read my post here about that.  But, on top of that, it’s not secure having your email on someone’s computer.  For just a second ask yourself this concerning question: Why would a company pay to give you free email?  Answer: to market to you or worse. So in order to market to you they must have all your data.  Haven’t you ever wondered why advertisements start to look very, very similar to what you are doing in your life?  Yeah.  That’s because of that (and other things)

For email, if you are technologically savvy enough you ‘could’ run your own email server which would be the safest possible solution.  However, it’s not that easy.  Maybe your friend could set it up, but if you don’t have such a friend, what is best is to stop supporting these companies who prey on people like this and move to something cooler.  It’s really *not* that expensive to pay for email.  Here is what you do:

  1. buy a domain like ‘your name’
  2. choose something cool that goes before it like ‘me’ or ‘name’
  3. call a company that sells domains and email (preferably in a country like Canada) and force their tech support to set it up.

Then you would have an email like this:

me@yourname.ca

If it’s not available there are countless Top Level Domains (TLDs) that you can choose from and certainly one of these will be waiting for you.  And it’s fun!

Just make sure that when you buy your domain and email that you have enough memory.  Most of them have some kind of unlimited plan for memory so go with that.  Also, make sure that it has IMAP support – I would be shocked if they didn’t but this is the email service you want.  You should budget about $15/year for the domain and another $?? for email and storage.  I have been really happy with Canadian Web Hosting for service and pricing if I can make a quick plug.  For about $5.00/month to have safe email per person is pretty reasonable.  If you have another reason to have a website, you could simply get unlimited email through your website hosting plan as well.  This requires a little more skill but it’s not that hard.  A friend who runs their own website should be happy to set it up for you once you purchase.  I would do this for my friends…

Now you’ve got your email and your other ‘stuff’ more secure, the last discussion is the big one.

THE OPERATING SYSTEM

You need to start planning to get rid of your current operating system which is probably either Apple/mac or Microsoft Windows.  These companies have compromised many things at your expense of both dollars and privacy.  They do not deserve your business nor are there endless reasons to stay with them.  For 99% of people they could switch 100% to a safer option and be completely happy.  There are a very small number of people in niche markets like print and design and perhaps medicine where the entire industry has forced everyone to communicate with these corrupted systems.  In these cases you may need to keep one computer for ‘work only’ and your ‘personal life’ should be immediately moved to a safer option.

I recommend that everyone immediately switch their desktop and laptops to Ubuntu

Ubuntu is the safest, fastest, most supported and most loved free and open source operating system in the world.  Switching to Ubuntu operating system is not that difficult but it does require enough comfort and skill.  It’s easy enough to learn, but if you do have access to an ubuntu community near you, you should join that community or start one yourself.

Soon Ubuntu will be ready to go for mobile devices too.  This is another reason why it would be wise to consider Ubuntu.

UBUNTU WEBSITE

 

A NEW AND SAFER INTERNET

Another important thing that we will all need to work on quickly is to create a new and community-owned internet.  This is a bigger picture discussion but please also start preparing your mind for ‘mesh networks‘.  I will post more here as I learn and this will be my new focus for 2017 and 2018 because what good is all this safe stuff if we are using them on unsafe platforms owned by people who have agendas that we cannot control?

I hope this has helped someone break the chains.

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Ubuntu: The Relationship Between Freedom and Quality in The Software World

Unlike previous blog posts, I’m going to start this one with two exciting tables to get you thinking. In the first table, I increased freedom and in the second table, I decreased it so that we could look at the effect, if any, on other items. Sorry, they are just image screenshots:

wot_decreased_freedoms wot_increased_freedoms

Someone sent me over this article written by Mark Shuttleworth, chief of Canonical – the company behind Ubuntu.

Usually, Mr. Shuttleworth writes with excitement, hope, positivity and other such forward-moving adjectives. Unlike pretty much anything else I have read written by him, this article sounded more like a dad who was forced by his disobedient kids to lay down the hard law. Just the tone alone being so different from his usual, caught my attention.

It appears that some unnamed European corporation has taken the Ubuntu code (written for free by many coders and volunteers around the world and maintained by the for-profit company Canonical at their heavy cost of time and money), done a few ‘things’ to it, and published it as ‘their own’. For full disclosure, I haven’t done any of my own research like looking at the notice of claims against them. However, what I’m picking up from the article is that the soon-to-be defendantscontributed little or nothing to the base code that made ubuntu what it is today

  • invested little or no money to the ubuntu project
  • decreased the quality of the user experience
  • harmed the Ubuntu name
  • harmed Canonical by means of all of the above

If this is true, it should not be difficult to prove monetary damages for Canonical plus I’m guessing there will be a lot of angry programmers out there who would rally beside Mr. Shuttleworth for screwing up all their volunteer work.

From a bird’s eye view it seems like a suitable analogy for this behaviour would be something like this:

Imagine a grade 5 teacher creating a cool project where the students build a gizmo that’s valuable to the world – let’s say it creates clean drinking water out of thin air. Next thing you know, all the parents and grandparents are excited about the project and start volunteering their time to help build it and make it better. Next thing you know, a company (let’s call them Company A) picks up on the project and realizes that they can help improve the project by funding certain parts plus they can make some money as well because some industries will want an industrial version of these water-makers which is out of the scope of these volunteers time/money to build or support. So Company A starts investing time and money and builds a business around it while continuing to support the kids’ gizmo proliferation around the world. Out of nowhere, Company B, which has not participated in the project at all, shows up, takes the plans that all these volunteers made and improved on over the years at the cost of their time (and at Company A’s expense, too), and starts making their own industrial water-makers. They slap their own brand on it, change one or two small things and start making money. Then problems start happening. They don’t have a volunteer base of countless thousands who can jump in to improve or fix things when they go wrong, so this makes sense. Company B then routes all the problems of their customers to Company A saying “they have support over there, I think…”

I’m guessing that there would be lots of angry kids and grandparents and most people would agree to take action to stop Company B.

The question of this soon-to-be lawsuit will probably hinge entirely on the licensing of the software. Has this European company violated any software license agreements including the free software licenses of Ubuntu? What exactly did they change? Are they guilty of changing the code or are they guilty of not supporting the code? It will be interesting to read the claim, for sure (if you like reading litigation documents)

This also got me thinking about correlation between freedom and regulation. I know that one of the main reasons why myself and others moved to Ubuntu was for the freedom. We didn’t want to be told by bullies like Apple or Microsoft how we are going to be using our hardware and who will be accessing our private information. I started thinking about un-related industries and correlations between different things when you increase or decrease freedom. I thought it would be timely to share the quick charts that I built.

(review charts above again)

As you can see from the charts, it was an interesting exercise. It seems that in most cases clear changes occur in most columns – except one. I could not determine in any instance that quality increased or decreased with the increase *or decrease* of freedom. At a glance you might quickly disagree with my conclusions, but allow me to explain them.

Drinking water: Although you may increase regulation and decrease freedom to do what you want with your drinking water, it is debatable that the government controlled waters with chlorine, fluoride, and who knows what, is better for you that this or that in a free stream of water. The long term jury is still out on this one.

Voting: To clarify I am referring simply to the freedom to vote and having a regulatory system to govern the actual elections and voting procedure. By regulating or not, does it really help improve the final product (the person you are voting for)?  Point proven in recent elections in big North American country…

Guns: Perhaps you could say the quality of the actual physical gun might improve with regulation…. I don’t know enough on the topic, but it would seem to me that a nice old man building a gun in his shop could do just as well as a heavily-regulated gun factory.

Religions beliefs: the ‘negative event’ here would be something like a mass suicide with a cult. The Catholic church is heavily regulated, but is the quality of faith and the fruit of believers higher?

Marriage: I was thinking here free-love marriages versus arranged marriages. Although one might think that by choosing your spouse, instead of your parents choosing him/her might yield a higher-quality spouse/match, I believe the jury is still out on this. Look at the divorces in ‘love marriages’, for example.

So when it’s all said and done the only category where I felt freedom had a measurable impact on quality was in the realm of computer code. No one will deny that the fruity computer company typically has typically stable software which works on stable hardware. But on the other hand, very few of its users, when asked, deny that they feel stifled, controlled and possibly even spied on – if not totally ‘stuck’.

And so there seems to be a much more pronounced correlation between freedom and quality in the world of code.

And that also is why this will be a very interesting legal case to follow. Will Shuttleworth be tempted to pull in some of the freedoms of the Ubuntu code base in order to maintain the quality that Ubuntu deserves? Will a task force of lawyers be commissioned to seek and attack low quality Ubuntu publishers much like how a big proprietary corporation might do?

Until now Ubuntu has wowed the world with its ability to stay both free and yet maintain an incredibly high quality final product which I can boldly say is the same and better than competing proprietary systems in every category. The proof of this quality has been in the pudding with fast world-wide growth with more and more everyday users converting 100% to ubuntu and also in the realm of innovation (look it all up yourself because I don’t even know where to begin!).

On the one hand I’m completely in agreement that selfish individuals and corporations should be stopped in their tracks and made to pay for damaging others. On the other hand, I’m also keenly aware that the freedom of the Ubuntu code must remain of higher importance overall.

I find myself favouring the ‘whatever-it-takes-to-make-sure-ubuntu-comes-out-the-winner’ side but I will remain full open to all sides of this story.

 

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The Future of Ham Radio: Freedom

This article on the ARRL website summarizes quite well the situation with ham radio – and radio in general.

Although it is exciting to be part of a club of radio enthusiasts around the world, one must question whether the licensing system on its own is a hindrance both to freedom and innovation.

The basic debate has these two sides:

Restrict Frequencies for Licencees

“By proving skills and taking tests, you can keep a higher quality of person on the frequencies.  If we don’t do this we will have CB radio on ham frequencies”

Let Them Go

“By restricting access to the airwaves we all breath and share, you are exerting controls that should not be there – especially on a technology that enables humans to transmit data.  By restricting the airwaves you are limiting both God-given freedom of speech but also innovation because the technology remains only in the hands of those who can (and will) exploit it for gain.”

And it’s a very great debate and one worthy of fighting for.

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Reasons to Switch to Ubuntu Phone

Someone I know sent me this positive article about the ubuntu phone. I read it and it was nice, and probably one of the best ‘tech-focused’ articles, but as a few friends and I discussed after reading it, it’s missing some of the most important reasons why one would switch.   Here are my list of reasons why one should switch:

1. Being Part of Something Meaningful

Apple sucked in a lot of victims by making their customers think they were either cool or part of something cool.  They paid heavily for that entrance fee in both privacy and dollars left in the bank (and other ways).  You may have noticed how important technology is in our lives, so with the Ubuntu project you can change the world by participating.  You become part of a community that cares.

2. Being Somewhere Where Your Voice Matters

Have you ever rolled your eyes (or worse) at how your smart phone is really quite dumb? Have you ever wondered “how could they do this? How did they let this happen?”  Then, unbelievably, the same horrible ‘feature’ is still there years later? With the Ubuntu project, the programmers and people who change stuff are *you*!  Let that sink in for a bit. That’s right, you can literally be a huge part of changing Ubuntu to better match your life and needs and the life and needs of those around you.  Ubuntu cares what you think.

3. Living Free

Ever felt sick and tired about how you know the ‘big boys’ are spying on you, stealing your information, and watching everything you do? Ever felt helpless and that there is nothing you can do about it because there are ‘no other choices’? Good news.  You now have a choice.  Ubuntu.  Ubuntu frees the captives and like Moses it ‘let the people go’.

4. Being Future Proof

Ever noticed how the ‘big boyz’ (including their strategic business relationships with the big telecoms) somehow manage to make your perfectly good phone ‘out dated’?  Ever thought that you’d like to buy a device that is more future proof? Ubuntu is the only choice if you want to be future proof with ‘convergence‘.

5. Nice Pillars!

Randall Ross wrote a little article that doesn’t get enough circulation. This really sums up why Ubuntu has a nice set of pillars!

 

 

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Google’s Tentacles Stretch Further: Verify Your Identity

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?

Wrong.

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?

Wrong.

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.

 

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Pokemon Go Away!

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.

 

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One of the Best Summary Articles About Privacy

I have a great group of people around me.  Thoughtful people.  Thought-provoking people.  People who rub me the wrong way and who challenge me to grow and think critically.  These fine people send me articles that they read and most of them are good.

But once in a while, one of these articles stops me in my tracks and when I’m done all I can say is

“Wow….  I’m going to re-blog that now.”

This article entitled “Peak Indifference” is truly a winner.

Why am I so excited?  Because it says everything I want to say to people and now I don’t have to write it.

Do yourself a favour.  When you read this, don’t just sit there like  a toad and say “Yeah I should do something.”  Just start.  If you don’t know what to do next, reply to this post and I’ll be motivated to start helping you down the journey.

Privacy is a long journey.  I’m not there yet but I’m way further than I was 5 years ago.  Except for a few foolish bread crumbs I’ve left around the internet, I’m starting to lose online importance which is just plain awesome.

Here’s the article again in case you didn’t click and read it yet.

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Do All Tech Writers Suffer from Fear and Creative Paralysis?

Today I was reading a recent article on Forbes website by a supposed ‘contributor’ named Federico Guerrini.  Forbes, as you may know, is a popular place for people to go to try to get ‘informed’.  His article followed perfectly a kind of template that these ‘tech writers’ for popular media use when discussing Ubuntu.

The format, and you may have seen it before, looks like this:

  • I love Ubuntu
  • Ubuntu is great
  • Here are my recent articles to prove that I can talk tech and have credentials
  • Hardware, blah, blah, blah
  • Comparison with other operating systems, blah, blah
  • Other operating systems are ‘just a little better because they have more apps’
  • Apps are oxygen to our lungs and the reason that I live
  • <critical missing information about where the future is going
  • <critical missing information about non-tech things that matter to our world>

Are you serious, Federico?

Do you not remember when computers first arrived?  There were three ‘apps’ – a clock, a calculator and word processor.  Oh, wait.  No, there was also a game – Oregon Trail on a paper thin floppy disk thing – and it took 10 minutes to load…  And people were excited because these computers had the potential to change the world.

I remember just a short time ago when the most amazing mobile operating system was Nokia and Blackberry and now they are nearly distant memories.  And they all ‘had apps’.

Apps?  Seriously, Federico?.  We need to move on past the apps, buddy.

Apps are just the fruit of people’s time and effort and a bunch of lines of code.  They are the result of people believing that the future of said operating system is strong enough and worthy enough or able to pay enough to compensate their time invested in writing the code.  That’s it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So *the core issue is not the number of apps* but the faith of the people who write the apps and in what OS they believe in.  And you have clearly demonstrated, Federico, that you speak ‘I love Ubuntu’ out of one side of your mouth but on the other side you say ‘Ubuntu isn’t as strong as the others’.  These two messages cannot mix, but you try.

If Ubuntu was not in a fully functional, market-ready condition and still in the lab, I could more understand your position and your ‘warnings’ to stick to horrible operating systems, but, you are now out of line because Ubuntu is officially in the market – and really good, too, and standing up just fine against the big boys in terms of everything except number of apps.

Apps?  Seriously?  We need to move on past number of apps.  Especially when half of the apps on these established operating systems, and the operating systems themselves, steal your privacy and hurt your family.

It’s not about whether what you write about is true or not, either.  What you wrote about is true.  It’s what you did *not* write about that matters.  You did *not* write about how android and ios are really bad for you and your family and the world.  You didn’t write about that in your article.  You didn’t share the truth about how the privacy of the users of these systems are being raped and their information pillaged.  You didn’t even touch on it.  And that’s not very nice to people who don’t know, Federico.  Especially when you do know.  And if you say you love Ubuntu, you do know, Federico.

But what is most saddening, is that you didn’t write about the bright future of Ubuntu and where it’s going.

Ubuntu and convergence will merge all your devices into one.  It will be the go-to operating system for the world and very soon, too.  Major operating systems have even started to try to work Ubuntu into their operating systems (behind the scenes of course) because they know their funeral date is near.  You also didn’t mention how Ubuntu is the *safest* operating system on the market.  It is respectful of privacy and its users.  It doesn’t do things to you without asking.  You also didn’t mention that Ubuntu is community built and that the community will continue to shape the system (including the mobile) into something that the people actually want, not what a bunch of boardroom execs want to push out.

Ubuntu is the best thing to ever hit the world of computing, and if you say that you like/love Ubuntu, you need to share the truth when you write, not just pander to these well-funded corporations and media outlets.

I know you are scared to step out of the boat alone.  I know it’s scary to come out against the masses, but I dare you, Federico, to use your God-given creativity and a little courage and write the truth in your next article and help change the world into a better place and inspire the world to help us get past the dysentery of Oregon Trail.

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Facebook is Evil.

Dear Friend,

Facebook is evil.

There. Said it.

Now here is an actual article written by a real journalist who eloquently expands on the ‘why’ and even provides some practical solutions.  Although he’s writing to other journalists, there is nothing stopping any of you non-journalists from taking similar action.

I, however, would go one step further than Mr. Gillmor:  I recommend that you delete any accounts associated with you and leave Facebook forever and spare whatever little sliver of life and privacy (and probably that of your innocent children) you have left that you haven’t already handed them on a silver platter.

But I understand your addiction and how hard it must be for you to face it.

But I will not be the one to enable your addiction.  I love you too much.

Love Wayne Out There

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Healthy Biblical Position on Privacy and Security

Second revision: March 17, 2016

The other day I indicated to a Bible-believer friend that I would prefer to only communicate with this person (and everyone else) by means of Telegram or secured email, rather than SMS messaging or totally unsecured email.  To my surprise, this person replied back that they were ‘unsure of their biblical position on privacy’.

Being quite surprised, and being who I am, I replied back in a simple email that “this is not a topic of discussion because it’s so simple” and I blasted out my points.  I am not sorry for hitting this person hard with my opinion, but I am sorry, perhaps about making it sound like the dialogue was one way, and for not dedicating further explanation to my strong opinion.  People like me need to remember that technology for most people is like some kind of ‘magic’.  It just kind of works.  And when it doesn’t work they hate it.  It makes their life more convenient (so they think) and they do *not* want to change what works for them today.  That’s why you will see old people emailing forwarded attachment for young people to waste their time trying to open and then regret wasting their time opening…

But as a first step, I tried to imagine what they must be thinking about in terms of a position and brought it up with another believer and he came up with these things they must be considering:

  • God knows all, and my privacy exists not. If I’m not hiding from God, then why do I need to hide from people/man?
  • God’s will will be done, somewhat independently of my technological choices (Though He will choose to work through man).

I now can see how thoughts like these might actually put someone in a position of inaction or even a kind of technological paralysis, if you will.  Again, I understand more than anyone how making a big technological change takes time and thinking and often gets dropped down the list.

But if you claim to to believe and follow the teachings of the Bible, then you have a much different position to take and to me, this is a very simple position which I established with the following series of questions which needed to be answered:

  • Is technology based in the world, or based in heaven?
  • Did God warn us about end times events?
  • If God gives a warning, do we heed the warning or do we go along as if He never spoke?

And so, this conversation, to me, is very similar to the conversation of “Why should I be worried about the environment if Jesus is coming tomorrow and the whole earth will be destroyed anyway?”  The reason someone would take this shallow perspective about God’s wonderful creation is because the creation scriptures were either missed, or God hasn’t yet opened their eyes.  But it’s certainly *not* the right way to treat the world while you are here.   People who have not yet gotten serious about their privacy and security with their technology are much like those who haven’t spent the time or energy to be concerned about the environment.  Yes, Jesus is coming tomorrow, but before that He has called us to be wise stewards of things while here and respect His creation.  Yes, Satan is having a heyday by spying on you but there are wonderful solutions out there that are not difficult to implement.  But, back to the unanswered questions above:

Is technology based in the world, or based in heaven?

It’s wordly. It’s part of the world’s system.  Although it’s not in the Bible I feel confident there is no internet connection or GPS needed in heaven.  Furthermore, I feel that God has given us creative minds to help protect us against evildoers and the enemy’s work against us and our families while we bring the Good News to a dying world.  Another analogy I thought of was the smoke alarm.  Can God save you supernaturally from the perils of fire in your home? Certainly.  But he has also given us a simple device and a 9 volt battery which allows us to focus on sleeping instead of wondering if the house is on fire….  I really like that peace, but feel free to remove your smoke alarm, cowboy…

Did God warn us about end times events.

Yes.  There will be a mark of the beast which will prevent you from buying, selling, and essentially living normally in this earth’s system.  If you do not believe this will be facilitated by technology, you need not read further – you are out to lunch and seriously need a cold glass of water splashed in your sleepy face. It’s in the book of Revelation.  I think chapter 13.  Go ahead, read your Bible.  You clearly have missed your quiet time…

If God gives a warning, do we heed the warning or do we go along as if He never spoke?

Now, if you thought I was being hard on you up till now, put on your seat belt.  I have a strange feeling you will agree that the prophetic mark of the beast will be a technological device/system/chip/etc.  The Bible also says that we will be ‘hated by all nations for the name of Jesus.” (Jesus said that somewhere).  So I don’t foresee any other future for the Bible believers other than bleak in this world.  That’s also why Jesus said to ‘take up our cross daily’ and why Paul said somewhere “I die daily”.  This world ain’t our home sheepsters.  And so eventually all of us will be persecuted and killed.  Jesus promised it.  It’s a guarantee.  Sure, the rapture might happen before, during or after, but we can be sure that before then the enemy will be gathering digital data on who the believers are for simple one-stop destroying.  If there were no options at all to prevent, slow down, hinder, make more difficult, aggravate, challenge, etc this process, I’d say lie down in a ball and do nothing  because it’s over.  But there are lots of easy, fun, and excellent solutions to make the process much more difficult.  So, do we just go the way of the world in the treatment of our privacy and the privacy of our family, or do we take wise, active steps towards protecting this precious gift called privacy?  Do you let your children change into their pyjamas in front of an open window at night time because ‘you have nothing to hide’, or do you close the blinds as a preventative measure to prevent evil behaviour towards you?  Maybe you want to change naked in front of the window, but please, for the sake of your children, who rely on your wise leadership, close the blinds for them. And do the same with your digital life if not for you, for your children.  God did not put these prophecies in His word *only* as a warning.  A smoke alarm does not sound just to let you know the building is on fire, but to motivate you to get up and *do something*!

Jesus instructed us to be alert and to have our lamps full of oil for we know not when He is coming.  This ‘being alert’ is accomplished through the intellect as well as the spirit.  Jesus also said “Wow.  You guys fully trust your weather network meteorologists but you can’t even see the signs of my coming!”  So, Jesus gives us helpful hints along the way.

Jesus also said that your body is the temple.  I believe that means that we are to do as much as possible to respect that life and preserve it for life is a gift and the life is in the blood.  If you foolishly hand yourself over to be persecuted when a handy-dandy preventative tool was available, that’s just a dog gone waste, in my humble opinionatedness.

Since we are absolutely certain that persecution is coming, we must also be aware that there is a Judas in every group, unless you think that you are less susceptible than Jesus to a Judas.  The Word of God also talks about how our enemies will be those people of our own families for the name of Jesus.  Why do I mention this?  Because it’s critical that everyone be on board with privacy-protecting technology or the weakest link will collapse the group.  Especially if you are meeting in homes and looking less ‘churchy’ than the mainstreamers.

The JW’s like to look at persecution as a blessing but that’s not the blessing God is talking about.  Let’s work with this quick example.

Scenario 1: You are standing beside a railroad track.  You hear a train coming.  You jump on the track and say “God will save me!”  SPLAT!  Ooops.

Scenario 2: You are standing *on* the rail road track.  You hear a train coming.  You stand still and take no action and say “God will save me!” SPLAT!  Oops.

In both cases, you have committed sin.  The first was a sin of action and the second a sin of inaction.

In my increasingly opinionated humility, I believe by not protecting the privacy of yourself and your family and putting yourself in harms way knowing now that there are ways to prevent harm – that you are not pleasing the Lord.

Conclusion

How about this: Let’s forget your personal pain, suffering and inconvenience related to improving your technological habits.  Let’s say you just don’t care about you and that ‘God is coming soon anyway, so whatever.”  By not doing your part you are definitely hurting someone else who values privacy right now, because the seeds of loosely transmitted data are always felt in a crop down the road.  You are also assisting their enemies in all of their dirty work.  You are *not* “assisting terrorists” as the popular media would like to deceive you into believing.  No matter what way you look at this, giving freely *your* data only assists them with the task of hurting you and those around you – perhaps not today but one day. I also don’t mind a little bit of self-inflicted, but I shudder to think that lack of care about myself (ie. an unencrypted email about Jesus to my friend) might wind *them* up in jail or worse.  In this case sharing is *not* caring.

Perhaps you are thinking that by handing over all your data freely that you are helping the world catch bad guys. Ok, let’s roll with that idea.  Then, since you are not bad, you are actually wasting the time and computer resources of these good cops and their spy work because they are using unnecessary resources to spy on you – a good guy.  If you just encrypted, they would have passed over you and moved on to the foolish criminal who didn’t encrypt and caught him quicker.

Ultra Conclusion

The root cause of this ‘position problem’ is not a biblical one but an earthly one.  It’s one that needs to be dealt with in the earthly, soulical, intellectual way with the reasoning faculties that God gave you.  The problem is also rooted in your priority set.  Are you watching TV for an hour a day?  You could have spent that “technology time” learning about privacy solutions instead of having the boob tube pump fear into your heart with unfounded comments like ‘assisting terrorists’.  The other root cause of the problem is habits.  Bad habits die really hard.  The first step to stop smoking is to hear about the possibility that it might be bad for your health.  This blog has now been that to you for technology.  You know now.  You cannot claim ignorance.  The second step is to learn more to find out if it’s true.  This blog is only partly that.  You must now go and learn for yourself to see if what I’m saying is hogwash or beefdirt (just made that up).  The third step is to take action.  Do something.  Don’t just hand everything over to everyone on a silver platter – it’s really unwise – and it’s not nice to people who are trying to maintain *their* right to privacy.

Final note

I know this isn’t easy.  That’s why I’m writing hard to you.  It takes a bit of a kick in the hindquarters to start down a new road.  But here is the great news – each day gets easier.  With the right people around you and with enough time dedicated, you’ll be making great choices for you and your family in no time.  I hope this will spare many of you brothers and sisters a lot of future pain.  I’ll do my best to blog more practical solutions here as I find time but don’t sit around and wait for me.  The answers are easy to find.

And please – don’t be offended someone cuts off communication with you using technology if you refuse to remain unwilling to become proactive; You can’t expect them to put themselves or their family at risk for you when there are solutions available.

Milestones to Start (some are instant, some quick, some perhaps less quick)

Things You Can do Today to Improve

  1. Start hanging out with people who care about privacy.  If most of your circle ‘has nothing to hide’ – you’re in deep doo-doo. Find a local Ubuntu group, for example.
  2. If using chatting IM apps, use Telegram. Telegram has encryption. Ditch the others ASAP. Bring your friends to Telegram when you ditch.
  3. Replace SMS with Telegram app wherever possible. SMS is brutally spied on.
  4. For email set up PGP encryption.
  5. Convert all your current computers to Ubuntu operating system
  6. Get immediately off: Facebook and Linked in and any other compromised ‘social media’.
  7. Ask all of your friends and family to respect you and your privacy by not asking you to participate in anything that violates your privacy (ie. unsecure email, SMS, etc)

Things you can do Today and Tomorrow (money may not permit today, but should be in plans)

  1. Start hanging out with people who care about privacy.  If most of your circle ‘has nothing to hide’ – you’re in deep doo-doo. Find a local Ubuntu group, for example.
  2. When you buy your next mobile device, make sure it’s Ubuntu
  3. Disconnect from everything Google. And I mean *everything* (yes, it’s possible)
  4. Wipe the hard drives 100 times and sell or discard anything Apple/Mac
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