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Big brother is here, and his name is Facebook (thenextweb.com)
504 points by ahiknsr on Aug 12, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 293 comments

Personally, I think Google is just as terrifying, possibly more.

As an example, just take a fairly normal life situation like going out for dinner with some friends, and think about how much of it goes "through" Google:


One of your friends sends an email to 6 others, to ask if everyone's free for dinner on Friday. 5 of the 7 people involved use gmail or a google apps address.

You've never heard of the restaurant they're suggesting, so you search for it on Google to see what kind of food it is.

You click to the restaurant's site. It uses Google Analytics, so even though you're no longer on Google, it still knows the exact path you take through the site while you're "outside".

You decide the restaurant looks good, and enter the dinner into Google Calendar.

On Friday, you use Google Maps to get to the restaurant, so Google knows exactly where you were before, what time you left, and the route you took. While you're driving, maybe you send a couple of text messages using the Google voice assistant.

At the restaurant, it turns out your friend Doug is there, even though he wasn't part of the emails. During dinner, you're all trying to remember the name of that movie where Shaq plays a genie, so both you and Doug grab your phones and google for phrases like "shaq movie genie" at about the same time. Even though Doug wasn't included in any of the planning, Google now knows that you're almost certainly together, and what you're talking about.

You finish your meal and pay via the restaurant's Square system, which emails the receipt to your gmail address. Google now knows exactly what you ate, and how much you paid for it.

You use Google Maps again when leaving, telling Google exactly how long you stayed at the restaurant and where you're going next.


I didn't even push that very far. There are multiple other things I could have easily added, and you can do this with almost any situation. It's quite insane how much Google knows about what people are doing all the time, and the level of detail they can get by combining these things.

Facebook is like a Casino. They'll try to maneuver to keep you engaged and contain you in their bubble. However, if you're able to leave or cut your usage, they extend no influence whatsoever. (Don't have mobile apps installed, block their trackers, don't use Facebook login, etc) There are lots of ways to communicate outside of Facebook, including other messaging apps that help you form social networks outside of it. My extended family use Line for communication.

Google on the other hand is like the road. You can't avoid the road.

> However, if you're able to leave or cut your usage, they extend no influence whatsoever.

My friends often upload pictures of me, tagged with GPS coordinates and user; And even though most have stopped tagging me (as I have asked), Facebook often does offer them to tag me, which means that Facebook has enough pictures of me to identify me in random pictures (even though I never uploaded a single one myself).

Google collects information from users themselves, and have some info from people mailing them (if you are not on google yourself, it's likely more than half your emails are still coming or going to a google server).

But Facebook has co-opted your friends and family to spy on you, all day every day. Very much big brother.

When you upload photos to Facebook as part of an album, my experience is it doesn't even ask: it just goes ahead and tags people it recognizes, and it even sends them a push notification that you did that even before you click "save" on the album (it even attempts to live synchronize the text you are typing as the album description, which is insane).

In my imaginary screenplay, a guy is hiding from the US government, but the NSA will find him because they have access to Facebook's face recognition system, and he happens to be in the background of a photo a tourist took.. "We have a face recognition hit, he's in... Thailand!"

What do you mean by live synchronizing the description?

Like, every few seconds the description of the in-progress album is synchronized to the live album you don't even realize is live yet.

Facebook is worst than the KGB

You can turn this off. You don't need to ask your friends to stop. https://www.facebook.com/help/187272841323203

I'm willing to bet the difference is purely cosmetic. Facebook likely still runs facial recognition on all uploaded photos even if it doesn't suggest tags.

Not only that, they need to do facial recognition for that setting to work.

>When you turn off tag suggestions, Facebook won’t suggest that people tag you in photos that look like you.

Otherwise, how would they know it looks like you?

> which means that Facebook has enough pictures of me to identify me in random pictures (even though I never uploaded a single one myself).

Facebook probably uses more than just facial recognition, it can also use the metadata. They know who uploaded it, so they can narrow down the "list of candidate faces" from 7 billion to the much smaller number of people your friend knows/tags people in photos.

You can't avoid FB either. It tracks you even if you're not logged in, and even if you don't have an account. And by tracking you across sites it can infer your age group, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings, income bracket, and other personal preferences through simple co-visitation mining. And they know your rough location via geolocation, too, as well as how many people live in your household, whether you have kids and how old they are (assuming they browse the web), etc. None of this requires you to volunteer any data about yourself, and none of this (in the US) requires your consent.

> It tracks you even if you're not logged in, and even if you don't have an account. And by tracking you across sites it can infer your age group, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings, income bracket, and other personal preferences through simple co-visitation mining.

I've logged into Facebook in incognito mode for the last decade. It's really not that difficult to avoid doing this. By contrast, I might visit a dozen different Google services over the course of the day, their apps are a lot more indispensable (mobile web Maps is no fun), etc so it's a lot higher effort to do so for them.

Sure you can -- install an adblocker or one of the other extensions that allows you to block FB tracking. I agree that that only protects those tech-savvy enough to know how FB is tracking you and what to do about it, but there are steps we can take while fighting against corporate mass surveillance.

The book Addiction by Design is really good for understanding the science of casinos and how social media may or may not be using those tactics. Not hard to spot the coincidences

The Classic "HOWTO" for software: Hooked by Nir Eyal (2009) https://amzn.com/dp/B00LMGLXTS

A New "History": Irresistible by Adam Alter (2017) https://amzn.com/dp/1594206643/

Your Recommendation: Addiction by Design by Natasha Dow Schüll (2014) https://amzn.com/dp/0691160880

Thanks for the links!

(thankfully I guess) there's so much trash in fb it's actually making it less engaging

Roads are pretty benign, and they don't steal your location data and store it in their database

I hate to break it to you but the state police and most toll road authorities have put an entire network of cameras on every major interstate and road system to be able to track cars.

Even outside the US this is true. I live in Lithuania and a couple years ago I started noticing cameras along the side of most highways. They've now started using them to enforce average speeds, but to everyone here it should be pretty clear they are tracking the movements of vehicles (whether intentional or not is a different question).

A lot of other European countries have automated toll roads (sometimes just for HGVs) which do the same thing.

One of the upshots at least of living in countries other than America that follow its worst practices are that they're generally much worse in execution, i.e. they end up making it obvious

So that's good at least

If that were true would there still be a need for amber alert?

Yes because cameras do not cover all parts of every road.

I don't live in America :P

Looks like you're from Wales. Here's a great national site that you can see the live traffic cameras:


Just filter the map by CCTV and choose the icon to view the live video.


Seems like a single photo only for each camera, no "live"?

Most developed countries have similar systems in place. Heck, I'd wager that the US is lagging behind other countries in this area, primarily due to its size.

What is this list of most countries? I am certain this is illegal in Sweden, for example.

Having cameras and having an effective tracking system based on them is a big difference. (No idea about the swedish situation, but in Germany proposals to give police access to information from traffic enforcement cameras for criminal cases have been a huge topic)

If I can access the feed I can build a tracking system (how effective it is, is always a big variable).

No, but there are plenty of cameras in South Wales.

You can go a long way to blocking a lot of these by using some alternatives:

* Using DuckDuckGo (https://duckduckgo.com/). It is really decent and has good desktop and mobile integration.

* Using a browser like Brave (https://www.brave.com/) that blocks trackers etc. Android app is superb.

* Using a Maps replacement like OSM (https://www.openstreetmap.org) on desktop and OsmAnd on mobile (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.osmand)

* Pay in cash, or pay using pre-paid credit cards that you change every couple of months.

* For real paranoia, get a VPN app and pick a new country & server every day.

Email is harder if you are emailing people who use gmail. For what it is worth, as of June 2017 gmail no longer scans email content for ads (in both commercial and consumer/free gmail - https://www.blog.google/products/gmail/g-suite-gains-tractio...) Personally I use my inbox as my calendar - dont think you're missing much by just not using calendar at all unless you have a very, very hectic schedule.

I deleted my facebook account many years ago. I've not missed it.

I've been trying to use DDG for the last 6 months. Ultimately I'd say 40% of my queries I now just force google with '!g' instead. I was quite bullish on it 6 months ago, but must admit that after 6 months, anything complex I !g straightaway.

I've had the opposite experience. I've been using it for many months and I only !g code searches or searches where DDG's results were disappointing, most of which end up disappointing on Google as well.

I find that hard to believe if you're a programmer, as any complex programming question !g is almost always better.

As well as anything local. If you search for a fairly common venue name, google will always get you a much better result.

I've also used DuckDuckGo for years now, often for programming questions, and the handful of times I've resorted to !g it was 50/50 as to whether Google had better results.

It's given that Google will give better search results. They track you.

I have the opposite experience regarding programming questions though. I thought that part of the initial appeal of DDG was that it handled queries that involved syntax or symbols better. I suppose these types of queries may not be that "complex" though. I admit I often query just to verify the API or to check how to do a common task in a language I am less familiar with.

> It's given that Google will give better search results. They track you.

IIRC they won't if you search via !g on ddg.

I find that hard to believe. DDG just redirects you to Google, it doesn't do anything fancier.

You're right.

> I find it hard to believe if you're a programmer

Some people work better with reference documentation, books and their brain than SO "answers".

Google for "complex programming questions" is laughable and honestly a bit insulting to the profession.

SO "answers"

That is also laughable and more than a bit insulting:

- most of the answers (I encountered) are in fact proper and correct answers because bascially it's a peer-reviewed environment, so no need for those snarky quatation marks. I, and many others, have spent hours and hours writing down good answers, and learning quite a bit while doing so.

- DDG/Google/... know about SO so it is often possible to get these answers way faster than when using the reference documentation, and your brain cannot change much about it

- you'll find answers which are nowhere to be found in the reference documentation - I assume your point is that with enough reference documentation and thinking any complex programming problem can be tackled. Well, yeah I guess, but it takes way more time than needed and anecdotally I have seen code written by people thinking that and it was one horrid mess. Mostly because stuff like 'good practices' and insight in design principles and patterns and whatnot isn't found in reference documentation. While via frequenting SO (and similar, before that existed) you pick up this stuff automatically and it makes you reflect on programming which in turn makes you better. If you use your brain, that is.

I have been using zealdocs for a couple months now. Which is basically offline official docs/tutorials/examples my Google and SO usage has dropped quite a bit. If you read the Stackoverflow post on why they discontinued their documentation feature - one of the reasons was official docs aren't as broken as ppl think.

Damn, thank you for that! Zealdocs is fantastic, I've been looking for something like that for a while, mostly for coding on flights!

Why is Googling a programming question insulting to the profession?

I find it laughable that you think there is something wrong with looking for resources relating to complex programming questions. I can't tell you how many times Googling a niche and complex problem instantly solved my issue. Sometimes SO is the only site that has fixes for bugs in the program you're using or mistakes in the documentation.

Well Google is pretty shit if the same keyword combos occur in multiple complex answers. It can even be a waste of time/send you off on a wild goose chase VS just reading a book. Google benefits from the fact that most people's attention spans and patience has dropped.

What really killed google for me was their gradual transition to showing results that are the most popular thing that's merely related to your search terms. Whereas DDG wouldn't show me many good results for some searches, google shows me endless links to high-profile stuff that is explicitly not what I asked for. Contrived example: search for "vegan meals", and google goes "vegan, hmm.. oh, MEALS! Yes! Here's everything I know about MEALS! Here's some steaks you should buy!" The only way I can get good results out of google these days is to perform the search, then switch it to verbatim mode.

Yeah, I don't understand why they feel the need to ignore whole terms.

This is taking "but it's so convenient to give up my privacy!" to a new level. Now it's "but if I don't give up my privacy can't micro-optimize my life!"?

For framework configuration questions just search Stack(Overflow|Exchange) directly. For local results append the name of your city.

Generally speaking SO's search (and reddit, and HN, etc.) are far worse than Google's.

Try using startpage. It's essentially a proxy for google, but since lots of people are using it, it has no way to connect the searches. And by using it, you're actually improving its privacy by increasing the number of different people whose traffic comes to google from startpage.

You can at least use !s (startpage) instead.

What about using google in an incognito tab?

When you open the incognito tab it is clearly stated that incognito only stops information from being saved locally.

Information saved locally is the main way sites such as google identify you (cookies mainly).

If you open an incognito window for all your searches, do not signin and close it right after, search engine will not associate your searches with you.

This is not enough to protect you from an evil company or government, but will affect which ads are presented to you, your search results, and should prevent your name from being associated with those searches should that search company date be compromised.

Pay in cash

Lately I've been wondering whether I should withdraw most of my money from the bank. Any serious drawback to that approach? For one, I don't like my transactions being tracked and two, find it outrageous I have to pay various fees to use/access my money while it is used to enrich others.

You can address your two problems without dropping the bank.

You should be quite able to find a bank or credit union that will hold your money without charging a fee. Where are you?

You can still use cash to avoid tracking, and you can even thwart forensics by making regular uniform withdrawals. The neat thing is that patterning like this makes you less susceptible to analysis but far more susceptible to getting mugged because now we know that you pull $400 every Tuesday at 3pm. Pick your poison.

> find it outrageous I have to pay various fees to use/access my money while it is used to enrich others.

Where are you banking? My bank pays me interest, even on my checking account, and I don't need to worry about a burglar taking all my savings. There's no reason you can't keep your money at the bank, stop using credit cards, and pay everything in cash; all the bank will know is that you withdraw $200 every week.

Think long and hard about secure storage then. Fireproof safe, bolted to the wall, at the least. Also, carrying wads of cash with you when you travel is a security risk, either via theft, or just by losing it.

Not sure how far along this project is, but MicroG intends to replace Google Play Services as their core invasion of privacy on Android devices.

https://microg.org/ | https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12864429

Thanks. I have been using Firefox + uBlock on Android, but Brave seems to run much better on my non-flagship smartphone.

And don't forget to protect yourself against browser and device fingerprint tracking.

I think that brave is working on anti-fingerprinting stuff too: https://brave.com/bebraveday/

> For what it is worth, as of June 2017 gmail no longer scans email content for ads

The important part of that sentence is "for ads". Obviously, they don't do antispam out of thin air, they still have to scan email for it.

Lately, they are offering quite good context sensitive caned responses.

For instance I got an email earlier confirming a cancellation due to illness. It suggested I respond 'Thank you for your understanding'.

That's some quite good natural language stuff running on every email, presumably building a model.

I just installed Brave. Then I realized it doesn't allow Chrome extensions? I have so many ranging from email notifiers to cookie opt-outs to my own custom extensions for security and usability (like one that colors usernames on HN, for example)... how should I give all those up just to use a different browser?

I think this is more about mobile browser choice (Chrome on Android has no extension support). On desktop, Firefox and Chromium are nice alternatives.

The conclusion I've come to regarding Google is that you just have to accept it for now. The services that they provide are so above and beyond anything from any other provider that to not use them puts you at a great disadvantage. Google search is an order of magnitude above the competition. There is no serious alternative to Google maps. The level of integration that Google Calendar has with practically everything is unmatched. As such I've placed my trust for now in Google and only Google. That's the key. I've decided to collocate all of my privacy concerns to one single company which I feel is at least moderately trustworthy, and which supports an open Web. Because in the end, I do not think that Google is fundamentally evil.

Facebook on the other hand provides absolutely nothing of value to anyone really. The entirety of their service can be replaced with an IRC client and a free image host. The walled garden they have cultivated will be laughed at in the future the same way we see AOL now. I am completely convinced that they are a fundamentally evil company. The sooner the world realizes that it is nothing more than a creepy spying/advertisement platform the better.

Neither is "fundamentally evil", and also both are. They are both corporations attempting to keep you in their ecosystem, using similar methods, that fundamentally make their money from targeting ads to you. There's no evil overlord at the top of either company (I hope) - their evilness must be judged by how likely each of them are to lead us into a techno-dystopia. And the more you consolidate to Google, the closer they become to The Corporation from every dystopian sci-fi ever.

Also, Facebook does provide something of value, though the cost is too great: they are the centralised provider of the One True Social Graph, and by extension your True Identity, which has numerous uses and no decentralised competitor. It's increasingly popular to use Facebook login on third party sites, because it mitigates to some extent the creation of throwaway accounts, which was hitherto considered a largely intractable problem.

> There's no evil overlord at the top of either company (I hope)

We'll have to disagree here. I think Zuckerberg is an evil, amoral person to his core. This hardly needs reposting, but I can't recall Brin or Page ever going on the record calling their users "dumb fucks".[0]

[0] http://www.businessinsider.com/embarrassing-and-damaging-zuc...

Sure. And former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously remarked on the subject of privacy, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Whatever you think of the people, corporations are not people and their behaviour is only partially directed by them. The most reliable predictor of their direction is their bottom line, and the intelligence of the people they hire to improve it.

Bear in mind that Google was so self-aware of the abuse potential of their position that they adopted "Don't be evil" as a corporate motto - until they dropped it on the grounds that it was underspecified, which strikes me as a quintessential example of corporate amoralism - evil, if you will.

Personally - I'm very aware that both track people obsessively, and I don't really go in for cheerleading US megacorps. However - Facebook feels a lot more evil to me.

It's the constant cat and mouse game. I go in periodically to tighten my security settings and close off more notifications, and they find new vectors to spam me into coming back into their walled garden. Their "frictionless sharing" always feels more like "frictionless privacy betrayal", as it's totally in their interest to disseminate whatever info they can gain as widely as possible. To blur the line between private and public for their benefit.

I don't close my account completely, because I go in once a year to thank people for the birthday greets. They find 21st century AOL more convenient for this than email.

In contrast, I'm one of those oddballs who still uses Google+. Almost exclusively with remote family, to share photos that we've taken during the week to talk about during a hangout. The default sharing "circle" is limited to close family, and that works well.

Feels like a pretty different experience from FB to me.

Plus, I think FB's aggressive cultivation of online relationships erodes old meatspace ones. It's human nature that just casually swiping on your smartphone screen for a status refresh and dopamine hit from your sofa is going to be easier than arranging to meet groups of friends in person. I've certainly found this with some people who live in the same city as me. So I wouldn't say FB is useless - I think it's slightly worse than that.

>Sure. And former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously remarked on the subject of privacy, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

This is constantly posted out of context.

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it's important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities."

He is talking about not using their services because they are subject to US law, which specifically violates privacy by its very nature.

Schmidt also said:

"You have to fight for your privacy, or you will lose it. Whenever there’s a conflict, the logic of security will trump the right to privacy."

There's more nuance to him than that quote.

Whenever someone posts this comment in response to the out of context quote, I think to my self that it still really doesn't change my opinion or reading of it.

The dumb part about what Schmidt said is he presumes there is nothing worthwhile about privacy before quickly alluding to a legitimate need for it.

The point about US law is less relevant for me, it's his immediate gut reaction to the legitimacy of privacy.

>The dumb part about what Schmidt said is he presumes there is nothing worthwhile about privacy

That's not at all what he's saying. Like... not at all. But alright.

>Bear in mind that Google was so self-aware of the abuse potential of their position that they adopted "Don't be evil" as a corporate motto - until they dropped it on the grounds that it was underspecified, which strikes me as a quintessential example of corporate amoralism - evil, if you will.

This is why Zuckerberg and Facebook bothers me so much. He is seemingly completely unaware or unwilling to admit the potential for abuse that his technology has created. His messianic complex disallows him from even acknowledging that perhaps there are tradeoffs being made in the name of "connecting the world (that is, making absurd profits)" which are compromising the very stability of our civilization.

"Do know evil" is a better motto for them.

This is such a stupid argument. He was what, 20 years old? And FB was a tiny nothing at that point. And let's face it, he probably wasn't wrong to think that users were dumb to upload private data to some random POS website.

I'm sure you never said anything at 20 on IM with a friend that could be used in isolation more than a decade later to show that you're an evil person, right?

The context is actually much worse than the "dumb fucks". He was actively offering to share the information of his users with his friend - "selling" it as it were for mere social kudos. It shows that even at that early stage, he perceived Facebook as a vehicle for collecting and exploiting the personal info of his users, exploiting even before he had a clear idea of how.

20 is old enough to know better than that.

Thanks for this.

I keep seeing HN users who clearly have an irrational hatred of Zuckerburg trot out this stupid quote as if it proves anything, let alone that he's some kind of megalomaniac. Just really annoys me. It always reeks of jealousy and sour grapes to me :)

This is like saying people who are defending FB have some agenda where they don't like seeing criticism against it. For example, you could be someone who coaches freelancers who might hang out on HN and also be coaching them on using FB ads. Remember that when you point out that others may have agendas, there is always the issue that you could be subject to the very same suspicion.

In any case, the real issue isn't that Zuckerberg thought his users were "dumb fucks" when he was young. The issue is that he keeps acting as if he believes it, till today. Take the example of the WhatsApp acquisition. A lot of people, even here on HN, rooted for the WhatApp mantra of "no ads, ever". Now they have clearly been cheated. Interestingly, the usual response to those who complain about this spectacular bait and switch is - "it isn't FB's fault if WhatsApp users were 'too dumb' to trust the words of the company's founder". The lack of ethics amongst these founder types has somehow now become a burden to be borne by the "dumb fucks" who pay for these services with a lack of privacy.

Someone once asked here what is wrong with shadow profiles - that is, why are they actually illegal. The answer was prompt and quite clear - "because those who don't have accounts on FB but have shadow profiles have never explicitly agreed to the ToS". I think if anyone is willing to dig deeper into this issue, it will lead to the same conclusion at a much larger scale - there was nothing "legally wrong" going on, except a large mass of people acting like "dumb fucks" by say, not reading the ToS carefully. Hey, what do you know, supply people with mass quantities of undecipherable garbage called the ToS, and most people are too "dumb" to understand its implications. The assumption of dumbness amongst your users, it turns out, can take you very far - even towards trillion dollar valuations.

Recently, there was this story about the EU fine of 1% of turnover if FB was found guilty of misleading claims. "Those dumb fucks", Zuckerberg probably thought,"the price of providing misleading information is just 1% of the turnover? Who put these dumb fucks in charge?"

I would be very happy to supply more examples if you ask for it.

> I would be very happy to supply more examples if you ask for it.

I'd love an answer to a different question: why do so many tech reporters etc think he's some kind of f'ing genius? Beyond the usual success-worship that is. For instance all of his presidential posturing, I was surprised how little ridicule there was, instead it was "well sure he's a tech genius, but can he really do politics"? I have seen zero evidence of tech brilliance, just ruthless eyeball gathering and ad shilling.

Thanks, was scrolling for a clear cut argument.

We have to be careful with the 'evil' thing. The fact that they are not 'evil' now does not mean that in the future they will not. People retire, companies evolve, the information stays.

I think the argument that they're trying to lick you into their ecosystem is a bit dishonest.

I don't recall FB doing much for lock-in. They basically have only three products, and two of them are just as integrated with things like Twitter as with FB (modulo inline picture expansion of Instagram, which is Twitter's doing)

Google uses your emails to put reminders into your Google Calendar. Uses your Google Calendar to add context to Maps.

The simple reading is just that they had an opportunity to integrate their products. In theory they could offer this integration with other mail providers or calendars.

In practice , do you think MSFT or Yahoo are going to let Google check your emails? Probably not.

Not that Google hasnt done a couple uncompetitive things (Chrome advertising when using FF is a bit much). But the reality is that Google has access to data that can make better usability. And it's kinda hard to do with third party services that are all also building Google-like ecosystems too.

But I have a bunch of third party calendars in Google calendar. I email other people with my Gmail account. I can install Firefox on my Android phone. I can Google search through DDG.

> The services that they provide are so above and beyond anything from any other provider that to not use them puts you at a great disadvantage.

Five years ago I would have agreed but at this point most of the advantages offered by Google's services are non-essential conveniences. Google's competition has caught up faster than they have added new 'must have' features.

Here Maps is a serious competitor to Google maps, in many regiona being far superior.

For Google calendar, almost any self hosted calendar service can easily compete with that.

Email is also easy to run yourself, as is Google Photos.

"Easy" meaning a task a CompSci student can accomplish during a summer or two of coding.

You don't want to run your own mail/web server. At least, you do not want a lot of people doing it. Because most of the will get the security part wrong. Horribly wrong.

Well, some ISPs have in their contracts a free custom mail and webserver for every customer (for example, mine does).

This obviously diversifies the options quite a bit.

Having my email or webserver tied to my ISP seems terrible. What happens if I want to switch?

That's the way it always used to be - for example, many americans still pay a small fee to AOL.

But you can just move it to any other hoster.

Apple Maps has also become a serious competitor. Apple is still playing catch-up in some ways but every year they keep closing the gap further. Almost every 'catch up' feature they have added is as good or better than Google's implementation. In the same time period Google Maps hasn't improved much and has taken some steps backwards in UI.

> The conclusion I've come to regarding Google is that you just have to accept it for now. The services that they provide are so above and beyond anything from any other provider that to not use them puts you at a great disadvantage.

Dear lord this isn't even remotely true.

I haven't used any Google services save Maps for nearly 5 years now and I only used Maps a few times when I first learned to drive before realising that OSMand and HERE Maps were actually better.

That's just one example. There are alternatives to pretty much everything Google offers, some even better.

The only thing Google offers that isn't matched is seamless integration between its various services, but if you are not heavily invested in the Google ecosystem to begin with, or are not resistant to change then its not an issue at all to move away from it.

Honestly the most dofficult part of stopping using Google is switching all your email addresses over for the various online services you use. That takes a few hours at most.

Google uses the information they collect on you to target their ads (and who knows what else), just as Facebook does. They happen to have a bit more window dressing that is of actual utility. All that makes them is a bit smarter but not fundamentally better than FB.


> There is no serious alternative to Google maps.

On an extended road trip last month I used both Google maps and Apple maps and found them roughly equivalent.

Here (formerly Nokia) is very good. Bing maps is perfectly adequate.

Also look at openstreetmaps.

> There is no serious alternative to Google maps.

Depends a lot on the region, but in many places, OpenStreetMap is better than Google Maps.

It's pretty incredible. Search history and e-mail alone almost certainly reveal staggering amounts of personal information about most people.

I try to "spread" my data. Apple for maps/messaging/photos, Signal, DuckDuckGo, Gmail, and primarily private tab web surfing. I also use different browsers for different concerns. And of course ad blockers although I'm not sure I've installed them everywhere. With my lack of social media accounts and a reup of my PIA subscription it feels like it should be a fairly private set up.

Of course, if I was really going all the way I'd use cash for everything, and curb the very modest amount of shopping I do on Amazon. I believe creeit cards almost certainly sell information based on your purchase history.

Oh! And don't forget a hat and sunglasses to avoid the myriad of cameras I'd come across in my day to day as a metropolitan.

And of course to turn off wi-fi and bluetooth when in transit. Might even be better to go into airplane mode.

So yea, just get a landline. Use snail mail (although addresses may be scanned). Hang a calendar on the wall (they are pretty, mine is pictures of Italy), stay off social media, use cash, disguise your features, and I dunno, use the internet at the library or something.

In the end, it's a giant pain and it's amazing how many vectors there are for information retrieval on the average citizen of the information age.

Regarding cash vs credit card. Google already has your credit card data too.

> Google says it has access to roughly 70% of U.S. credit and debit card transactions through partnerships with companies that track that data. By matching ad clicks with this data, Google says it can automatically inform merchants when their digital ads translate into sales at a physical store.


> Oh! And don't forget a hat and sunglasses to avoid the myriad of cameras I'd come across in my day to day as a metropolitan.

Gait analysis can be used to identify individual people.[1]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gait_analysis#Biometric_identi...

Walk without rhythm and we won't attract the worm

Oi mate, just wanna say: What a blood brilliant app you cats have built.

As a nutritionist myself, with poor blood glucose control if I'm not careful and emotionally affective wheat intolerance, your app, at first glance, looks amazing and very comprehensive. Well done!

If any of ya'll ever find yourself in Tasmania be sure to look me up, email on profile.

Haha I just noticed your username could be a reference too.

And thanks, that's awesome to hear! A lot of parts of the app are definitely a work in progress, and its tough to make appealing looking meal plans that also consistently hit arbitrary nutrition goals. But we're steadily making progress. Never been to Tasmania, but I'll be sure to let you know :)

Haha! Yes, good one :)

Installed your app, will have a look. I studied nutrition for a bit so could be interesting.

It gets even more frightening if you realize that you're probably not even considering all of the "deeper" levels. Almost everything I listed in my comment was pretty surface-level stuff, where it's at least somewhat obvious that you're giving the data to them (some things like the analytics not so much, but still not really "hidden").

But now start thinking about some other things:

- Are any of the sites you're using hosted on GCP (or other Google-owned hosting)?

- Even if they're not, do they include any scripts/images/fonts/etc. from other sites that are?

- How much network infrastructure does Google own now? How much of your traffic is passing through it?

It almost seems impossible to use the internet for even a day without having some usage information leaked to Google.

Even if you don't install any GApps, Android would still ping Google servers. I can't remember exactly since it was a while ago, but IIRC it was some hardcoded NTP server.

Not much but still a heartbeat per GeoIP.

Not to mention the captive portal redirect URL

For Google to collect data on their platform customers' layer 7 traffic would be a pretty big breach of trust (i .e. hacking if they were using HTTPS) If they are just collecting TCP data and selling it to third party marketers or building analytics profiles it would be a lot of work to reliably connect that to humans for little benefit, along with risk to their reputation.

I use 5% cashback card from my amazon card (chase bank) and one of its disclaimers when you sign up is that it sells your product purchases to advertisers

At least they tell you so.

t's pretty incredible. Search history and e-mail alone almost certainly reveal staggering amounts of personal information about most people

And if you are foolish enough to use for your DNS, they get every site you visit, every network activity requiring a lookup in fact, even where you SSH to.

> use cash

Don't forget that notes have serial numbers so there is potential for tracking there too even though it would be slower and less precise.

Better use coins (real ones not block chain ones).

Lately, I'm getting even more paranoid with Google.

I have the location in my Android inactive and everytime I open google maps I get the message:

"To continue, let your device turn on location, which uses Google's location service. cancel - ok"

I have to click cancel every time. I think the language is disingenuous, because if you click cancel you can use the maps anyway. I suppose I should stop using Google Maps.

I use duckduckgo in my android, and the other day I realized that the keyboard where I'm typing is "Gboard - The Google Keyboard".

I suppose it's not calling home with every key, but who knows?, or, if it's not calling, if this will change in the future.

You may want to check out OpenStreetMap.



For mobile, totally offline, uses OpenStreetMap data.

Nokia HERE WeGo[1] also does offline GPS maps. You can download whole countries as vector map data.

MAPS.ME looks really good but I know some areas around here don't have great OpenStreetMap data yet, whereas they do have complete road data on Nokia's app.

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.here.app.m...

Cool! FWIW, around Pacific North West, I found OpenStreetMap data is significantly more detailed than Google's for hiking and pedestrian points of interest.

You have listed all the reasons that make Android very valuable for Google. At the same time, do you believe Google can be as evil as Facebook? I personally believe it isn't and won't be (so it's just the lesser evil).

I wouldn't trust Facebook to not be evil, based on its poor track record on privacy and treating users badly as well as its highly ambitious and callous founder/CEO. I'm also sure that Facebook has been working on dismantling the Google ecosystem or bypassing it wherever possible to control and retain user attention.

> Google can be as evil as Facebook

Personally I believe Google _IS_ much worse than FB for one simple reason: it's much easier to avoid FB than Google.

With FB the story is simple. You'll miss out on some news/invites from FB-centric friends, but it's pretty easy to go without (or to even find new friends who aren't as hooked on FB as needed).

"Avoiding" Google in your daily life is much, much harder. Their free mail offering is still top-notch. Their search is absolutely incredible. Depending on what you do this list can go on and on. Also, these are things we can't really just "do without" like in FB's case. Alternatives do exist, but often are either paid or not as good.

Personally, I'n going to try and transition away from Google this year just to see how far I can get. Should be an interesting experiment.

Some personal recommendations from a random Hacker News:

For mail I recommend: inventati.org (And if you use them please donate to them!)

For search I recommend: duckduckgo.com (Spend some time using the bang syntax-- such as !w for wikipedia pages --it makes life about 10x easier!

For maps I recommend: openstreetmaps.org

There are more on https://www.privacytools.io/

If I can affect just one person here today...

Please please please stop using Gmail for important communication and account recovery (banking, mission critical services you maintain, etc etc).

Use a paid service from a reputable company who does that one thing only and does it well.

Too many Gmail horror stories.

Can you recommend a paid email service that is reputable?

I can recommend Fastmail. No affiliation, just a happy customer. I've used Gmail for several years previously and thought I'd miss it when switching. I didn't.

I also use Fastmail. No affiliations, just a content customer.

I pay for a mobile telephone service, but email is more important to me so my convictions necessitate a paid email service from a dedicated provider with a real support team.

I also own my own domain, primarily because now my email address is short and unambiguous to say over the phone.

Late reply, but I would recommend Posteo [1] because it's flexible and very cheap if you need multiple accounts. I switched to it a year ago to move out of Gmail and other "free" services.

Fastmail is, for my needs of a few mailboxes (each with its own credentials), very expensive - running into few hundred dollars a year!

Another similar and cheap alternative is Mailbox, which allows custom domains to be used.

Both the services allow IMAP, which was very important for me to have local copies of emails if I ever decide to migrate out.

[1]: https://posteo.de

[2]: https://mailbox.org

"Too many Gmail horror stories."

share one pls?

Someone hijacked an older google account of mine, the phone number used had since run out and been sold to another user.

Google asked me to either have access to the phone number, and the old password, or to know the security question, have access to the backup email, and know the exact day the account was created on.

Google was not willing to provide any help, not even via the Nexus phone support, and even after a friend who worked at Google submitted an internal recovery form.

After I contacted the new owner of the phone number, and coordinated with him a way for me to authorize via SMS, backup email, old password, security question, and account creation date at the same time, I got back into the account.

In the account I found an email from Google's account recovery support thanking me for contacting them, apparently they had contacted the hijacker after I asked for help, not me.

After changing all data, I went through the login history.

The account was set to German, always used from Germany. Someone tried logging in via several different VPNs, and was blocked a few times, but allowed the last time from Russia.

I had learnt the account was compromised originally because Google sent me an email that an attacker from Russia had logged into the account and changed the password.

So, to recap:

Google realizes that an attacker connects and hijacks an account, emails me, but doesn't prevent it.

Google allows that person to change the password, and tells me that an attacker changed the password, but provides no way to restore it, and doesn't block it.

You can't restore with backup email, security question and old password.

Once Google's internal account recovery team was contacted, they talked with the attacker, not with me, despite being explicitly told I had no control over the account.

A random person was more helpful with restoring the account than Google itself.

Do NOT ever rely on Google, and write down your accountcreation date right now (on desktop, in gmail, settings, pop3 and imap, "pop3 active since" tells you the account creation date)

Asking for a phone number as a verification method is particularly toxic for users such as myself who do a lot of international travel and essentially just use phones for data plans.

Due to a close call with one of my own accounts, I absolutely refuse to link a phone number to any online account, for fear of it being required months later when I'm in another country. I still nearly gotten bitten by this problem when Google wanted to use my old android phone itself as a secondary identification method. AFICT, the only safe solution is to also avoid using Android phones (or have no Google accounts you'd care about losing).

Or if you use prepaid SIMs which get deactivated after not upping their charge for 6 months, even if there's still money left on them.

Using phone numbers - which are, btw, free with prepaid SIMs - as identifier is dumb in general.

hm, definitely incompetence from the google team, but also a bit your fault, since you did not update your number.

Why did the backup email not worked? Or did they told you about the hijacking via the backup but said the only way to restore is via the number?

Oh, the backup email worked. But to restore it's not enough. You need either

a) old password, SMS

b) security question, email , date of account creation.

And I didn't update the phone number because I had stopped using the account, and had forgotten about it (but I also obviously didn't want anyone to spam in my name, or extract my data).

Many stories have been posted here over the years of people whose Google accounts got disabled for some unknown reason, with no way of contacting someone at Google to get the issue resolved. A quick web search turned up this example:


it really isn't that hard to get away from GOOG

I run copperhead on a nexus device (no gapps) use fastmail for email contacts and calendars duckduckgo for search plex and icecast for media matrix for chat mastodon for social media fix standard notes for note taking

YouTube is a challenge, but you can always use youtube-dl and watch via plex asynchronously

the only missing but for me is replacing photos. Plex does and ok job, but it isn't quite as seamless as I would like.

> YouTube is a challenge, but you can always use youtube-dl and watch via plex asynchronously

Check the Video Assistant extension to play embedded videos in external player:


Newpipe is a great Youtube alternative for Android. You can download it from the Fdroid repo.

Sure, Google's probably (hopefully) not doing anything "evil" with all this data right now, but are you absolutely certain that they never will in the future? That they'll never be forced to give access to the data to others? That they'll never get hacked?

Because you don't get the option to take your data back, ever. So you can't only consider the present state.

I was a bit creeped out the other day when I was off work sick, and Google play music offered up a "working from home" radio station.

Ironic isn't it. Google is a threat, but the media focuses on a random memo. Not dismissing the memo, but it pales in comparison to Google's larger scope.

Unfortunately, the outrage of people about some issue is usually inversely proportional to its importance. This seems to be a general fact about humans.

The "outrage" is a function of the MSM's ability to make money off the issue. I'm not sure about God, but journalism is certainly dead.

In the end it's your/our choice to choose Google for every single decision you've described. It's not like we can't do it without Google, we used to do fine doing the same things before Google. I think it's unsettling how many people choose to do almost everything using Google, Facebook, Amazon.

That's not really true at all. Almost everyone uses Google-controlled email addresses, so even if I don't, Google still gets our entire conversations. There's no option to avoid that except just refusing to email almost everyone.

You also don't really "choose" to give your data through Google Analytics. You can block it, but that's a lot different than choosing to give it in the first place. Even if you do block it, that's still only client-side and it's possible that the site is sending data through other methods that you can't control.

And like I mentioned in another comment already, what about sites that are hosted on GCP, sites that make requests to other sites that are hosted on GCP, Google network infrastructure, etc.?

You get a choice about some of it, but certainly nowhere near all of it.

Here is the webcomic with Facebook pushing aside "big brother" as an amateur, then revealing a giant Google looming ominously behind them both.


If I could point to the flaw in both your and the article's arguments, it's trying to paint either as worse than the other.

Both are exceedingly bad. Both have proven exceedingly harmful (and, yes, useful, which is actually a reason why they're so perniciously harmful).

I never fell into Facebook's maw, though that's cost some inconvenience.

I've somewhat extracted myself from Google's, though still only partially:

DuckDuckGo for search. It's quite good, and I prefer bang search and actual, direct links rather than Google redirects. Though I still miss ranged date search.

OpenStreetMap for maps.

ProtonMail for email. It's not everything it could be, the client has some annoying limitations, and neither IMAPS nor POPS are supported. But at least it's not Gmail. There are other options as well.

My router blocks Google analytics, and a large set of other adtech hosts.

Despite being known as a critic of it, I use G+ heavily. With appropriate pruning and blocking, it's useful.

Yea, I have a lot less faith in the explicitly-unethical Facebook and its leadership than in Google, and that's been the case pretty much since Facebook came on the scene.

But how principled the founders are is only one part of the picture, and Google just has the potential to be a lot scarier. People change, companies outlive tight control by individual people, and explicitly-evil actors with armies force companies to do things or compromise their systems (this already happened to some degree a few years ago).

I don't really understand why HN goes on and on about how social media is inevitable and you're just a victim of its use. It's pretty easy to drop Facebook and pay a pretty trivial cost. Avoiding Google products, on the other hand, requires a sustained attempt in a dozen different product areas to use usually-inferior products. It's not impossible, but you pay a fairly hefty cost, to the point that most people don't bother. As you mention, they also have a lot finer grained data about what you actually do, as opposed to Facebook mostly knowing what you care to share.

I mean this without any intention to be rhetorical, but, how common is sending emails to plan an event? For anyone I meet in real life I either talk to them in real life, message them on discord, or call them on the phone. I've got nothing against email, I use it for a lot of things, but it's just too sluggish for event planning in my experience. Occasionally I might use facebook but that's for big consistent events like hosting a yearly get together because I live closest to a fairly big convention that happens in my city.

I suspect many Internet users are unaware that Google also owns reCAPTCHA.

If there's a series of news articles on Shaq, even more data than just GA can now be collected thanks to no-opt-out AMP

This would make a good Black Mirror episode.

What exactly is scary in that scenario? So Google knows that you went somewhere and who your friends are. I don't see a problem.

The actually bad thing would be something like - you watch alt-right YouTube videos, and Google doesn't hire you because of that if you apply for a job. But even that isn't remotely close to the totalitarian government level of oppression, where you get executed for disagreeing with the party line.

Chances are, you are not important, and nobody cares where you go to eat and whoats with you.

Nobody is important until they suddenly are.

The Nazis used highly in-depth Dutch census data during WW2 to hunt down and murder Jews and undsesirables in the country.

That data was considered harmless, even useful by the population to that point. Things changed, and that data became very useful to evil people.

This is why people in Germany and many eastern European countries are not sold on government surveillance for their own good, they lived under pervasive Soviet surveillance.

That kind of power can and likely will end up in the wrong hands eventually, so it is always best to keep it in check or just not have it at all.

What's scary is that they aren't aligned with your interests.

The actually bad thing is everybody acts like a) they are, and b) they can't and won't ever change.

Chances are, you are not important, and nobody is looking out to make sure they don't crush you.

In this scenario, you are the bug on the interstate which hits a car windshield. "Oh but the humans aren't out to get you, look at this big open space they made for us, what's so bad if the car knows where you are?".

The authoritarian regimes' secret police would be delighted at something like this. People actually (well, not all of us) give them information themselves, and those who don't, sure do get tracked across the web.

"Thoughts control" is very much a real problem, as the Google Memo scandal showed us. People dug out the irrelevant donation of Brendan Eich. Think about the power FB has, they know exactly who is the enemy of the state using the word from good old Soviet Union where I happened to born in.

People on the left dangerously remind me the fanatic pioneers, who only think one way is right and preach false tolerance. Some are even so stupid that they hold a hammer and sickle in one hand and rainbow flag in another. Knowing the possibility of the power and the capabilities these people would have if in power. I would say we live in dangerous times.

They are delighted. People are being locked up based on content of their social accounts for years. Regime doesn't even need to get cooperation from the social networks themselves that much. They take your phone, make you unlock it and the off with you to a prison.

One such example being Turkey.

And if you're arrested and don't have any social presence that's presented in the media as odd, unacceptable, if not antisocial.

I'd rather take that, than be thrown into prison. There's a recent case of two Czechs traveling to Syria to help Kurdish cause in "Rojava", that were checked on a border in Turkey and revealed by posting stuff to Facebook. They got six years for terrorism both. They had terrible opsec though, the girl went to talk on TV about her activities in Rojava before leaving for Syria and also posted publicly on FB.

I more than agree with you. The only thing, why do you assume that only people "on the left" could be intrested in using these tools? Sure it's people "on the left" that are creating them and control them now, and yet thought control is DEFINITELY not a thing right parties have ever had problems using lol. Am I wrong?

Absolutely, the reason I wrote left is that for the past decade it's the left I'm afraid of. Of course, the right can use them for evil too. But seeing how American media behaves, scandals around people who don't agree with the left narrative, is very much frightening and reminds me the Soviet past. When I call it out, people say something along the lines "freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences", after social and regular media (that is left, let's face it) doxx and destroy a person.

I know plenty of people who are afraid to speak out. Even having a little bit different opinion can destroy your career. But you have family and kids. What is more important?

The Google Memo guy is a brilliant example. It doesn't matter what he wrote, people wanted to destroy him and they did. No freedom from consequences...

We had a similar saying over here too. It meant a crime against the state/society. That is a reason my grandmother was not able to go to the university. Her father used to own a small two-man brick factory and by being a capitalist he committed a crime.

Your universities are filled with ignorant, blinded radical people, who don't teach thinking but dogmas. Looks like the KGB work started to take effect a little too late.[0]

People reading it I'm a republican nutjob, but believe me, having once lived in that kind of society they are pretty close to the truth on that. Wrong on many other things.


The disturbing thing is that the American left is so invested in their narrative of tolerance, that many are completely blinded by the remarkable degree to which dogma has come to dominate acceptable standards of discourse over the last couple decades.

I'm generally liberal, but am a strong believer that much more power needs to be vested locally. There are a number of problems in the US that stem from power concentration in the hands of 1%ers that live far away. With Trump, more liberals are also starting to think in this direction. Concentrated power scares them.

Concentration of power into international corporations that know everything about everyone is dangerous also, not least because of the potential for blackmail against any that oppose some action those corporations wish to take.

That said, while some of your criticisms of the left ring true, you seem quite unaware of similar authoritarian monoculture tendencies in the right wing.

> With Trump, more liberals are also starting to think in this direction. Concentrated power scares them

Hilariously predictably, it strictly only scares them when it's not their person in power. We get to watch this rotating clown show every few years, where the left suddenly wakes up again and pretends to be against concentration of power or various rights abuses (Clinton to Bush, Obama to Trump). When it was Obama abusing his power, they were as silent as could be (except for a few fringe people like John Cusack or Cindy Sheehan, who both got ostracized for speaking out - they were consistent in their beliefs - once it was a liberal in office).

If it were Hillary in there abusing power right now, they'd be just as silent as they were a year ago. There are more people willing to speak up against abuses of civil liberties on the left than there are on the right, it's still always a small bunch when you've got a Democrat in the Presidency (people like Ron Wyden).

I'm fairly well aware, I guess I have personal reasons to be afraid of the left ;)

And the fact that I am also left, is what triggers me off. I'm sure I don't understand all the details but believe me seeing the whole media circus from here, you see it also from a very different angle.

> The only thing, why do you assume that only people "on the left" could be intrested in using these tools? Sure it's people "on the left" that are creating them and control them now

Your critique is correct, the right is every bit as brutal about censorship when it comes to a context of authoritarianism. The left in the US is progressive (to varying degrees) in mentality, adopts technology much faster, and gets to utilizing new tools (in this case online) for censorship much faster accordingly.

The interesting thing about the left in regards to censorship is two fold: they (used to) pretend to be the champions of free speech and civil liberties, that makes them a dangerous fake protector. They can strip your civil liberties much easier, as their own base will remain quasi-silent (as we saw in the Obama era), while the right often won't protest because they agree with the abuses. This is fundamentally why the left was able to put us into Vietnam: there was nobody left to stand in the way of it, the right (more inclined to war) was naturally going to agree with the premise.

They're also fast adopters of technology. In my opinion people in the more left half of the political spectrum (call them Democrats or whatever makes sense), on average, move substantially faster as adopters of technology (Clinton & Obama were far more technologically progressive than the Bushes or Trump). The big platforms are all extremely left in their political bias, deriving from the people who work there, the memo was correct in that regard - not to mention credible people like Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel have noted this publicly for years. These platforms are/were built by young people, who (likely inherently) do not tend toward conservatism.

It makes perfect sense that social platforms founded by people with a left wing bias, including: Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google - would then link up with left-favoring ideology/politics/causes when it comes to what they allow on their platforms, or what ideas they tolerate.

The left are the fast(er) adopters of technology, at least in the US. Of course they're going to get to using these tools for censorship before the slow-moving conservatives do. The far more scary part, is when the right catches up, and both sides are gun-ho about abusing technology for censorship.

> They're also fast adopters of technology. In my opinion people in the more left half of the political spectrum (call them Democrats or whatever makes sense), on average, move substantially faster as adopters of technology (Clinton & Obama were far more technologically progressive than the Bushes or Trump). The big platforms are all extremely left in their political bias, deriving from the people who work there, the memo was correct in that regard.

Disagree. The internet used to be more libertarian, even just a few years ago. This turn to authoritarianism coincides with an influx of late adopters.

Disagree. The internet used to be more libertarian, even just a few years ago.

In the '90's we believed that Freedom on the Internet was unassailable because all the talented engineers wouldn't work for or participate in all the sleazy stuff, in fact would actively fight it. The best cryptographers, security researchers, etc, were on "our side". How naive we were.

At the moment the left is more of a threat, but this shouldn't really be a left-right comparison.

A better way of framing it is authoritarian-libertarian. Some authority is useful, but too much is highly corrupting.

Currently a section of the left is rather authoritarian and dogmatic. In the past the same has been true of the right.

>At the moment the left is more of a threat

Nazis are literally holding rallies in downtown Charlottesville with torches and yelling kill jews. One just ran over people counter-demonstrating in the streets. But yea it's the left who are a threat.

We have a president who refuses to condemn white nationalism. He has repeatedly issued calls to violence and wants to rough up journalists. But yes, it is the left who are endangering our free speech.

A close advisor to the president, Gorka, wore a Hungarian nationalist pin to Trump's inauguration - this group were nazi collaborators. He says that the bombing of a Minnesota mosque could've been a "false flag" and he has refused to condemn white nationalists. But yea it's the left who are a threat to our wellbeing.

The president hasn't directly condemned black supremacy or Antifa either. Does that also concern you?

You're observing a response to authoritarianism on the left. We can expect increased conflict between ideologues on both sides of the political spectrum.

Yep, the Nazis are just upset about authoritarianism on the left. They don't actually want to kill jews or black people or anything. They just want to peacefully protest the fact they can't say such things right? Maybe we should try appeasing these fascists, because that worked so well last time?

Upset about, encouraged by, emboldend by...

The actual number of neo-Nazis is very small but we hear more about them because they're the greatest troublemakers and because of history.

There are many disgruntled conservatives and former lefists who are also upset about authoritarism on the left. The neo-Nazis are using their sentiment as fuel, so to speak.

We can see a similar thing happening with Antifa emboldend by the current clout of social Marxism.

An interesting perspective. Could you elaborate more on some similarities for someone who is only vaguely familiar with the Soviet Union ?

the one constant is they want their privacy only if they suspect someone else profits off using it. if they profit off giving up their privacy they are more than willing to oblige.

At first they were fine with FB and similar because they didn't see how all that information they handed over to another was to be used, they only saw the advantages they were getting. While nothing has really changed in how the data is used they suddenly seem upset that someone else makes use of it for profit or gain.

People on the right dangerously remind me the fanatic pioneers, who only think one way is right and preach false tolerance. Some are even so stupid that they hold a bible in one hand and a rebel flag in another. Knowing the possibility of the power and the capabilities these people would have if in power. I would say we live in dangerous times.

I'm not from the United States, it's ignorant to think labeling everyone who doesn't agree with you having a rebel flag in their hand. It has nothing to do with me. Outside of the land of free, there are more possibilities than just being liberal or conservative. It's not a binary system.

I tend to lean left according to your politics, but the stunts American left is lately pulling are disgusting, especially the labeling, hypocrisy, and anti-freedom.

You're not making points, you're just disparaging "the left." I can easily do the same to "the right" by flipping a few of your own words.

And yet your original post was an overly simplistic left- versus-right ideological rant.

"Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed. He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world." Chuck Palahniuk

We're getting a mix of 1984 and a brave new world.

Just a quick overview over both works here


and i dont think we end up and a mix of both, but something else, more disturbing even. Think CGI + Fakenews + Propaganda. Uncanny.

Amusing Ourselves to Death is a fantastic book. I first read it years ago and it changed the way I view a lot of things (specifically TV). Maybe it's time to give it a read again.

Big Brother is here, but his name is not Facebook. It's WeChat.


WeChat has the tracking capability that Facebook could only dream of, and it does not even hide it.


The company that owns WeChat also owns QQ which is much more popular it seems.

QQ has been around for so long, it isn't going to fade away. But WeChat is the de facto messenger among the many Chinese-speaking users, especially those living in oversea. Obviously not everyone who can speak Chinese use Wechat. In HK, WhatsApp is probably the most popular messenger.

Tencent is too powerful already.

May 26 2018 is going to be a very interesting day. The GDPR will trigger across Europe, and Facebook will become legally compelled wrt any European citizen to share everything they know about them, discard data not relevant to delivering the Facebook service, and allow users to correct any of the data, or remove all of it. It will be fascinating to see what exactly they know about me. In theory, not that much, since I barely engage with Facebook at all, but in practice I suspect quite a lot.

One thing people are oblivious about is they say "Facebook is awful, I only use Instagram and WhatsApp" and forget that the whole network is insanely large and growing. People lose sight that FB and Google account for 99%+ of all online advertising in the US. Social has become such an echo chamber and so manipulative.

99% sounded like a made-up statistic, so I looked it up [1].

What do you know, it's more like 60% combined. What's the purpose of throwing out numbers like this? It only hurts whatever point you're trying to make.

(Edited for tone)

1. http://www.adweek.com/digital/u-s-digital-advertising-will-m...

I apologize, I misremembered the statistic from an article I read months ago. They only account for 99%+ of the growth in the last year, according to this article.


Even that source is a real stretch to support your point. Yes, some analyst thinks it's close to 100%, but sounds like most experts don't agree.

I just can't see running the Facebook app. Facebook on the desktop, sure, but why on a phone? Other than checking in once a day or so to see what my friends are doing, Facebook has nothing I want.

I don't use Gmail. I have a Google account, but it's only used for updating browser add-ons. Last login was over a year ago. Mail comes from a IMAP server. Android's standard mail client does IMAP just fine. All my desktops and laptops use the same IMAP server, so it all syncs.

I don't have much Google stuff from my Android phone. When I bought the phone, uninitialized, it asked for a Google login. I clicked "later", and then deleted Google First-Time Login so that wouldn't come up again. After a while, voice dialing broke due to some update at Google, so I deleted more Google services. Location services come from ZANavi. (That uses unassisted GPS, so it takes a while to get a fix.)

>I just can't see running the Facebook app. Facebook on the desktop, sure, but why on a phone? Other than checking in once a day or so to see what my friends are doing, Facebook has nothing I want.

This is like saying, "I just don't understand binge drinking. Red wine with dinner, sure, but a fifth of vodka in a night? I enjoy a light buzz, I have no need to get wasted."

Some people are simply more susceptible to this addiction than others. This product is much more prevalent and addiction is less stigmatized and arguably more profitable. Motives have to be questioned.

What about search, cab you quit Google?

I don't find Facebook useful for much and find that it brings the worst out in people, therefore I don't use it.

I do find Google useful but choose to use it very sparingly - no search, no mail, no maps. I do use Drive, Docs, and Photos (for now).

The problem I'm running into is some of Google's services are so exceptional compared to alternatives that it's becoming problematic to use alternatives. Maps is an example of this. In some ways Chrome is an example of this (when considering it as a platform/OS instead of just a browser).

I get the irony that their services are exceptional because of the data they collect, but that's sort of irrelevant.

But at the end of the day, I ask myself how much this matters in the absence of a VPN at home and on mobile when ISPs and cell providers are partnering up with advertisers and government agencies.

> I do use Drive, Docs, and Photos (for now).

Docs is the most egregious item on this list. Just use libreoffice. And the syncing capability? Kill two birds with one stone, host your own cloud storage (raspberry pi hooked up to a 1tb hdd) sync your documents AND your photos to it.

I already have Syncthing running, just haven't moved off to it.

The biggest offender is Photos. I just haven't found a good self-hosted photo solution.

What photo solution do you need? Or rather, what do you want for photo storage apart from file storage?

I heard form someone at Facebook that they use location data to figure out who you are with.

If a group of friends go to a restaurant and nobody checks in Facebook will know you are together because all of you opened one of their apps in the same time frame and location.

Which is why phone meta data is a big deal. Once you can cross reference numbers, locations, etc. patterns will emerge.

For example, you meet with someone every Saturday. At some point your colocation isn't a coinsidence, it's a relationship of some sort. Gather enough data and they'll know more about you than you do.

Match.com has this feature now called "missed opportunities." Shows who you crossed paths with.

Right. And people are happy to be tracked. SMH

Ha. Speak of the "Don't be evil" devil. Yesterday, I had to turn on my location to use Waze. Today I get a notification from Google to review the venue I was went I turned on my location. That makes me very uncomfortable.

I can't quite believe the argument that Facebook is Big Brother, because the first suggestion the author suggests is "stop using Facebook".

In 1984, I believe the most compelling attribute of "Big Brother" was that he/it could not be willfully turned off.

So, for this to be an appropriate analogy, Facebook would need to be able to legally compel you to have the app on your phone, and if you illegally removed the app/ignored FB, you could be thrown into jail.

Facebook is huge, but all the big tech companies cannot actually imprison you.

Seems like a useful distinction.

Would you not consider shadow profiles a form of imprisonment? Perhaps not quite as strong as voluntarily giving heaps of information, but still a rich source of data on people who do not use Facebook.

About a month ago I started to receive Facebook notifications from people that I know. I am not on Facebook.

How did you receive these notifications? Couldn't it be friends emailing/inviting you to join?

Nope it's XYZ added a picture or read XYZ's new comment

If you are not on Facebook, how do you get the notifications?

By email

How did they get your email and your name?

Most likely from his friends contact lists, which Facebook imported when they installed the app on their phone.

Sure, it's possible for a few people and the digital nomads, but try telling your teenage daughter don't use Facebook products. Heck, it's even difficult for me because of events and stuff, but for the majority of people, it has become a utility. Especially young people are sucked into it. And if not, you still get tracked everywhere on the web.

It's like telling you to dig your own internet cables. Negotiate peering and backbone if you want uncensored internet, no data caps, and no throttling. What's the matter, the internet is opt-in, have a problem? It's possible for few rich people just like living without digital products for few old farts.

I have two teenage sons and neither they nor their friends use Facebook. It's Snapchat mostly from what I gather.

You can't opt out completely because you are tracked anyway. They track your family, co-workers and so on

Exactly. Due to the network effect you're on FB whether you like it or not, because those connected to you will talk about you via FB. That means that at a certain level of adoption, everyone in the world is effectively on FB.

What you say about BigBrother not bein able to be willfully turned off sounds very true to me.

What certainly can't be turned off willfully now is the Internet; not FaceBook or Google. So the question is : is the Internet BigBrother. The idea of internet or even its hardware infrastructure is certainly not BigBrother. Now, the combined power of GG, FB and others certainly is a problem. And I'm sure there are people with the capability to combine their powers. Now, the questionis who can exert sufficient power over GG and FB ? I can think of the POTUS but wall, I'm sure it's not that simple. But intenet is certainly the machine of global surveillance...

But everybody knows that.

The question for me is : will internet inevitably becomes the monster we're fearing ? Personally I don't know, so I'm careful. But the fact is that we're becoming a society based on metrics and that scares me because it de-humanize us...

Having just finished rereading 1984, I say the most compelling attribute was how normalized Big Brother was. His (?) omnipotence was gladly accepted, to the point of (next to) no one noticing. I would say that an accurate reflection of most people's perception of FB, Google, etc.

Comparing to Big Brother is a bit of an embellishment, but due to network effects and some game theory designed to addict, it's not so easy for many people to just "stop using facebook."

You think you can turn off FB? Guess you haven't heard of shadow profiles.

Wasn't the CIA an early investor in FB? Yeah, give it some time ;)

Didn't Zuck assist Pakistan in enforcing blasphemy laws resulting in a mans death sentence?

Here's a prediction. Zuck will be the face of the Democratic party in the next 12 years.

He speaks very well compared to a few years back where it was awkward to watch. Also, that's a nice prediction from news a day or two ago.

I wonder how many people who write about big brother and 1984, have actually read the book.

Because I live a life without facebook.

In 1984 there was no opt-out - full violent dominant controll, all the time. Also over the thoughts.

We are maybe beeing spied on a lot, by many different organizations - but I am not going to torture/brainwashed camp, because I THINK xxx is bad. I can also say it.

So continue to criticize bad things, but maybe with a little bit less alarmism/hystery ... thanks.

But how much does facebook know abiut you?

* photos amd comtact info uploaded by friends * tracking scripts all over the web * any datasets they may purchase to make correlations

I'llbet they have a lot more on you than you think.

"I'llbet they have a lot more on you than you think."

No, I do know they know a lot about me ... so what? The do not have a army to take me in, if I do not think or act like they say I should.

There might be a point, if I cannot have friends or find a job without a fb profile - and for some people this might be the felt truth allready - and this is bad, yes. But first of all, I think atm everyone has a choice - and secondly, big brother is still something completely different ... that was my point.

Outer Party members (Winston) had their opinions controlled. No one cares about what the proles think.

Yes, proles and animals were free, but right and powerless. So they could also be killed for whatever reason. (did not happen in the book, because the proles did not matter). But you could not choose to be a prole. If you were a common outer party member - you could not change, even if you wanted to be a prole.

... says a media outlet with live trackers for connect.facebook.com and graph.facebook.com, amoung others.

And a warning that says, "we use tracking cookies and sell your browsing data to advertisers"!

Google knows far far more about you than Facebook. Facebook knows the information you want public or general information like usage. Google knows your darkest secrets. Sure, Facebook tracking pixels might track some of your shopping habits too; but Google has analytics everywhere, Adwords linked up, your search history, your browser history, your location history etc.

I disagree. If you use WhatsApp, Facebook knows more personal things about you than google. Things you only talk about to your best friend, fights you have with your significant other, how you behave in group chats etc - it can derive your emotional state and use that. Facebook conducted studies on (real) users on how different posts and the order of posts affects them emotionally. I don't trust services which try to exploit my emotional well-being in order to be more engaging/addictive.

This article states all the reasons I don't use the Facebook app, the Messenger app, nor do I ever use Facebook as an authentication mechanism. Why stick a "kick me" sign on your own back?

Did you just wake up and realize it ? Cause it's something a lot of people have been saying for years now.

To put things in a different perspective, imagine how much information about a farmer had an ancient imperor? How fast or effectively he could move the feelings of the people? Or order his army to attack or change tactics? Or how many months or years a pope from Middle Age would take to spread some dogma to all faithful?

When I relate these questions to what we have today I can't help but think that if we do not pay attention we'll head to a world with less and less freedom.

On one side, I'm happy to see that people slowly start to understand the situation.

On the other side, I'm kind of shocked it took so long. The way these companies were going to take control over us was so obvious about 15 years ago. A lot of damage is done, now.

All of the spooky privacy issues are bad enough, but what really makes me sad is the continuous movement away from things you can control and run yourself (e.g., mail and web servers) toward closed, opaque, proprietary stuff like Facebook.

> In most cases, granting permission is an all-or-nothing affair. This means you cannot cherry-pick the permissions to grant or deny when installing an app. You either accept or decline.

I wish the author had spent a few lines to expand on this one so people would understand it better. This is a huge problem for those using older Android phones (which is a huge number worldwide) with Android 5 and below. With Android 6 (Marshmallow) and beyond, one can control specific permissions post app install (whereas the "all or nothing at installation" model applies to lower versions). AFAIK, this is also a problem on Windows phones, but that's quite a small percentage comparatively.

Those using iOS devices haven't had this issue for a long time because app permissions are granted or denied individually at runtime (this has also improved over time) and not during installation.

> The choices here involve four things:


> Switch to secured and private decentralized social networks

The author mentions Nexus Social, but it still seems like it'll have decentralized storage only later next year. As of now, I don't know of any Facebook or Google+ replacements that are decentralized and help control/preserve privacy. There are simpler platforms to replace Twitter, like Mastodon. But a text-only platform will always remain a niche as far as social networking is concerned. We live in the age of memes, live videos and clips.

I personally would love to see a decentralized, feature rich and easy to use platform that preserves and allows control of privacy by the users (from others and the network), but at this point in time I don't have much hope for the next several years.

> With Android 6 (Marshmallow) and beyond, one can control specific permissions post app install

There are a lot of apps that will simply refuse to open if you do not grant them permission for a list of unrelated permission.

I've also found that the permissions aren't nearly granular enough. Should Google Maps be allowed to use my GPS when it's open? Sure, if I allow it.

But there's no way for me to allow it only when Maps is open.

Every problem is an opportunity and potential solution. The current centralization will bring with it all the problems of centralization. Individuals can't simply depend on goodwill. That never ends well. Power is arbitrary, concentrates itself and seeks its own expansion making individuals irrelevant.

The bigger problem is the potential solution. What seems to happen in the market economy is once any potential 'solution' takes off, the money and greed involved also do, and the solution becomes the exact same problem it was attempting to solve. Or it was just 2 powerful vested interests fighting all along masquerading as change.

There is plenty of wealth floating around, resources and power are increasingly centralized, the barriers to entry are getting higher exponentially, distract yourself, avoid it, accept it or vie for change, but most change-agents have been betrayers, merely replacing one set with another, hence the devil you know.

This is not to advocate helplessness but to think carefully about potential solutions and not blindly support self serving interests promoting change.

The article is pure FUD spreading.

"potentially being able to eavesdrop on our conversations", so now any app which has access to microphone "may be listening"?

So it uses data which you are willingly share with it to "serve better ads". Where is a problem with that? Does the author prefer worse ads?

>Where is a problem with that? Does the author prefer worse ads?

I certainly do. I do not want ads at all, so I prefer them to be as least relevant to my interests as possible so the chances of them distracting me from what I was doing -- on the rare chance that my ad blocker fails -- are minimized.

I also don't like seeing ads about things I just looked at at Amazon on other websites. It gives me the impression that this new website I'm looking at knows what I'm shopping for.

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