Like many things in life, you choose to use to use the Internet. “But”, I hear you cry, “It’s the only place to look stuff up; or to find things out. It’s a mine of useful information”. But so were newspapers, or the wireless, or TV. True, they are more entertainment than news; true you cannot search for information.
Tim Berners-Lee, the Oxford University educated, Brit who invented the World Wide Web while he was at CERN, recently expressed his horror at what had become of his creation.
Sir Tim and his colleague saw it as a way of empowering the world and enriching the lives of all, not a vehicle for enriching the few, who could then use it to spy on people and to alter their attitudes by restricting messages and/or over-emphasising others.
The fact that it can be used politically to bias an election, or it can be hacked to impersonate you and steal your money, or that people can assemble so much information on you, they don’t just know what you buy or what you like, they now know how you think and can predict what information will bias your future decisions – this is the final corruption of man in Paradise Lost; that Silicon Valley Satan bringing hell to mankind in every action.
But were newspapers any better in their time? Rupert Murdoch could make or break someone’s election hopes in the UK race for Prime Minister; as could the reporters at the BBC. You had a choice, of course. Change channels; buy a different newspaper.
You still do have a choice.
Choice 1: Move from Google to Bing
If you don’t like how Google is biased towards the drug companies – how the top searches seem to result in WebMD (owned by 5 drug companies), or Wikipedia (inaccurate on 9 out of ever 10 health pages) – switch to BING. You will still find CANCERactive. It is not ‘de-platformed’ on BING – third for ‘Glutamate, prostate cancer’; and ‘Tamoxifen, curcumin’. If you really want breadth and depth in your searches, that could be a realistic first choice search engine.
Choice 2: Search using VPN
This is incredibly easy to add to your computer and/or your phone – mine came with my security package. A Virtual Private Network means you can access the Internet through a country that you are not sitting in, and an IP address that doesn’t ‘recognise’ you. You can search to your heart’s content and no recipient can access or steal your data, even if they ask you to accept a cookie.
Choice 3: Switch to ProtonMail
Stop Google reading your e-mails! ProtonMail is an end-to-end encrypted e-mail service founded in 2013 by scientists from CERN. It is Swiss. It encrypts your e mails and your user data immediately, before they are sent to the servers. You can even set a ‘delete e-mail time’ so that your Apple computer or phone does just send copies of material to ‘the cloud, to be stored and read there. Most users would need no more than the free service.
Choice 4: Come off Facebook
As an individual, I really have no idea why I am on Facebook. Why on earth do I want strangers to see pictures of my kids in the pool or me relaxing at a golf club in the South of France? Many, many people with cancer ask to join my Facebook. They can join CANCERactive Forum and will receive communications about cancer, information about speeches and so on.
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal explained how your basic data (digital assets, data analysis, data brokerage), your likes and dislikes, comments (data mining) were collated and used by this British political Consulting firm were used to communicate specifically with you during a British Government election. The scandal changed the world – but it didn’t change Facebook. Zuckerberg still has not honoured his promises to reform.
Never use Messenger – every message is ‘read’.
And never ‘Sign in’ to a service using Facebook. You have just allowed the company you signed into, to have access to all your friends’ data too. How dare you!
Give your data away? It’s your choice.
Why do people protest about the abuse of their data and then e-mail their bank on Google and show their friends their Algarve holiday on Facebook? You are giving all the details of your life away and the tech giants collect it, use it to sell to advertisers, the advertisers in return give them more info on you, until your personal computer dossier is overflowing. Google now has even been given access to Medical records.
So change, switch, stop the open access and protect yourself and your friends.