Owning Your Data

Posted on Thu 27 February 2014 in Tech

Governments are collecting data on you, that's a fairly accepted fact at this stage. Whether you're being "social", reading email, playing video games or even when you're writing a book on the NSA. If you want more details The Guardian has a great explanation as to what Snowden's files mean here.

There's one critical flaw to the NSA's methods. Most of how the NSA collects data on you(via prism anyway) is through Google, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Microsoft. These technologies are all just choices you've made. Thankfully, choices you can undo.

I'm going to put up a running list of technologies I've used/still use and how I've moved across from services that were out of my control onto ones that I can manage and run myself. Other sites have done something similar(links at the bottom), but I'm hoping to write or add in comprehensive tutorials explaining how to set these things up in an understandable way. I leveraging a tool called saltstack to share reusable configurations, so you can easily run a server then clone a lot of what I'm doing to circumvent surveillance.

A lot of my tech involves using owncloud, it has a lot of addons and features that I've grown to rely on over the years. If you're not too technical and want to get up and running with owncloud, checkout Bitnami's owncloud stack, with a one-click installer, though I'd try avoid those hosting platforms and go for something based in Europe. I use ovh. I'll post up links each week on a new service or product that I've swapped across.

Here's what I'm currently using in terms of functional products.

  • Facebook-Replaced by Ditching Facebook. Maybe use a blog instead? Try alternative communities?
  • Tumblr-Wordpress for everything.
  • Smartphone-I've now moved from a dumbphone to a Jolla Phone running Sailfish. It's mostly open source and developed in Finland, more for the tech oriented(still a lot of bugs) but a great community helping to define Sailfish. They're also looking to create a new Secure Sailfish operating system if you wanted to wait. Not perfect but sufficient.
  • Twitter-Consider diaspora
  • Gmail-Replace Gmail with your own mail server or fastmail is pretty nice.
  • Google Calendar-Owncloud has a really nice calendar with caldav sync.
  • Evernote/Google Keep-Personally I'm using the ownnotes plugin on owncloud but tagspaces looks really nice if you don't want to use owncloud.
  • Whatsapp-Difficult-They own all the contacts right now and they've sold those contacts to Facebook. I'm now using Signal and am trying to convince my friends/family to use it instead.
  • Dropbox-I now use owncloud.It's sync functionality is really nice. Highly recommended.
  • Google Contacts-Owncloud again. The contacts app is decent has really nice carddav functionality.
  • Skype-I'd suggest linphone with some like callwithus for VOIP services, they take bitcoin.
  • Spotify-They require facebook to login which really isn't great. Plus you don't really own any of the content on there. Personally I think magnatune is a great alternative. Ogg formats you can download any time and half of all revenue goes to the artists. You could also host/stream your music purchases on your own server with ampache.
  • Google Reader/Feedly-The ownnews plugin for owncloud.
  • Pocket/Instapaper-Wallabag is a really nice self-hosted read it later webapp.

Some good external links: