New Year’s Resolutions are usually lip service. Take last year’s, for instance – it was simple enough (or, it should have been). All I had to do was start taking a men’s once-a-day multivitamin.
But I failed sometime in late January. I couldn’t even make it 31 days!
This year’s resolutions, though, will be different. I’m going to take proactive steps to take back control of my data from the internet and stop feeding large corporations information about me, my habits, and what I search/do on the internet. Sure, some of it will be impossible (thanks, mobile phone carriers), but I have some choices to make that should go a long way to reducing my dependency on services that use me as a data point to serve advertisements.
So, the following is a list of what I’m pledging to do in 2020.
I’ve been a loyal Gmail user since April 2004. I have my entire adult digital life stored in my [email protected] address. My first two startups were run from that account and I can leverage the power of their search and summon anything in the 15+ years of use.
While completely amazing, that scares the bejeezus out of me because I have no control over my data or how it’s used. Everything is residing with Google, and likely used to help target advertisements specifically to me.
Moving to Fastmail
I did a lot of research over the past week or two about email hosting. The new provider had to, at a minimum:
- Value user privacy and prioritize security.
- Allow for a custom domain to sever dependencies on one service (e.g. I was locked into my [email protected] address and it isn’t portable – it’s tied to Google forever and ever).
- Never, ever rely on advertisements for revenue generation.
- Fully integrate with macOS, iPadOS, and iOS, as well as offer a robust webmail interface.
- Offer enough storage to last another 15+ years of email.
I found all that and more with Fastmail, who has an operating model based on “service in exchange for money” — you know, the old fashioned way of running a business.
I made the switch to Fastmail with my bolen.co domain and couldn’t be happier. The service is $50/year, which I’m more than happy to pay to take back my data and provide a sense of privacy.
2 Factor Authentication
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Hulu that someone in the U.K. signed into my account on their iPhone. I thought I had a pretty solid password, but as it turns out, it was reused, and likely found via a breach.
I’ve been using 1Password to manage passwords on macOS and iOS for a long time, but this was truly my wake-up call. While having a memorable, reusable password for multiple services is nice, it’s not as secure as a second-step authentication method (authenticator app, SMS, etc).
What I love about 1Password is the Watchtower feature. It shows, at a glance, the number of compromised passwords from breaches, passwords that may be vulnerable, passwords that you’ve reused, and passwords to unsecured (read: non-https) logins/websites.
My goal for the new year is twofold:
- Replace all duplicate and weak passwords with new, unique passwords.
- Use a 2-step authentication method on every site that offers one.
An added bonus: I have an Apple Watch and can store my One-Time Passwords (OTP) for frequently visited sites in the 1Password Apple Watch app for easy access. There’s really no excuse to not lock everything down. Plus, it works seamlessly on my iPad Pro, iPhone 11 Pro, and iMac. The ecosystem is strong.
Facebook sucks eggs. It’s a pox on our democracy and is truly an evil company who’s quest for growth and engagement trumps (pun intended) your rights to privacy and security.
- The Facebook mobile application has access to your microphone (unless you disable it via settings).
- The Facebook mobile application destroys your phone battery life.
- Facebook, in general, tracks your every move across the internet.
I am not really in a position where I can just delete Facebook, but I can control how I access the platform and how they access me/my usage.
As far as I’m concerned, there are only two browsers out there that put user privacy and security above tracking and selling your browsing data:
- Apple Safari
- Mozilla Firefox
I love and use both equally on my iMac, iPad, iPhone, and work-issued MacBook Pro. I like the convenience and integration of iCloud Keychain passwords and deep 1Password integrations with 2FA.
So, while I have Safari set as default in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, I find that I’m doing more and more browsing in Firefox.
The ground-up re-write of Firefox is super responsive and feels native/first-world on macOS and iOS/iPadOS. Firefox also has Facebook containers, which hide tracking pixels, making it more difficult for Facebook to get their tentacles around my data.