Completing leaving the user data selling walled gardens

Over the weekend I had made a bunch of progress on migrating away from the walled garden systems.   I’m happy to report substantially more progress.  This will of course be an ongoing process of refinement and testing.  However I’m currently getting substantial amounts of my needs met in enough areas that I’m prepared now to start pulling the plugs on Facebook, the Google Ecosystem, Twitter, and so on.  When I wrote about this over the weekend I had completed my hypothetical replacement of several systems.  I have some updates to those elements as well though.   My current replacement portfolio looks as follows (summary at the very end):

Replacement for Facebook and Twitter: Diaspora

All my social media needs are now being met by Diaspora primarily followed very secondarily by another system called Friendica which interacts directly with Diaspora.  My primary portal will now be Diaspora.  In fact I look forward to having this be my new focus for open source development.   For blogging purposes I’m using a combination of Diaspora and another system called HubZilla to reproduce the equivalent of my Facebook Pages and Twitter page.

Replacement for Facebook Messenger: Wickr

I’ve selected a secure point-to-point messaging system called Wickr as my Messenger replacement.  Not a lot of people have that however.  For those people they will either be able to reach me via text messages directly or iMessage if they are on iOS.  I may continue to investigate other systems with more accessibility but similar security policies if need be, but for now I’m keeping it to those systems.

Replacement for Google: DuckDuckGo

I’ve converted all my machines over to replacing Google with DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo plugin to block data sipping services: https://duckduckgo.com/app

Along with cleaning up the search engine itself I wanted to clean up all the little trackers websites or their ad networks embed to track activities. I’ve deployed DDG’s FireFox plugin to achieve that.  At this point I don’t recommend running Chrome or Chromium either.  I don’t believe they have an equivalent plugin capability from what I can see

Replacement for Facebook Groups: Mixture

What are Facebook Groups except a collection of special interest areas?  In that vein we already have something like these called websites.  Thankfully most of my interests, which aren’t too many, still have websites that regularly publish data and several that have forums attached either.  There is also Reddit for an equivalent of discussion areas, although with all of it being completely public I’m reluctant to use that in more than a read-only capacity for the most part.

Replacement for Facebook Events: Mixture

Facebook events are just a convenient way to plan functions with other people you know.  I can send evite‘s, use your calendar function, or as a last resort I can create events in Friendica.  Diaspora doesn’t have event support yet but that is supposedly something that may be coming in the near future.

Replacement for YouTube: TBD

I’m still struggling with this one.  There are some open platforms but they are all in beta form or lower.  There are a few commercial options which don’t have the same data mining business model such as vimeo and DailyMotion, but their library is substantially diminished.  There are some other systems that mask YouTube, like HookTube but I have problem with this layer between them.  I’m not even sure if that’s violating TOS for these services.  Instead I’ll first try to get videos from those other sources and if I can’t find them continue to use YouTube content but do so in private browser sessions with the DDG plugin to limit tracking but still give the YouTube content providers their respective clicks.  Hopefully some of these other options can start rising to the top above YouTube.

Replacement for Gmail and Google Drive: KolabNow

Last week I was stuck on how to replace Gmail and Google Drive.  I have since overcome that.  There is a fully open source collaboration system called Kolab, which is bringing together lots of different technology packages.  The company behind it also has hosted versions called KolabNow which provide all of the functionality of Google’s Gmail and Drive but built on these open platforms.  I’ll be doing a full review later but this covers my 95% use cases.  The use cases where it falls a bit short are two-fold.  The first is on the document editing capabilities.  It works very well compared to Google Drive circa 2015 but is a bit behind where Google Drive is today, especially on spreadsheet functions.  The bigger downside is on sharing.  It’s not possible to make public documents, calendars, or notes.  Since some of what I use Google Drive for is doing just that I’ll have to keep a skeleton presence up there for those isolated cases but move everything else over.

Replacement for Google Maps: Apple Maps and HereWEGO

At the end of last week I had found my replacement mapping system for iOS devices and Macs, Apple’s built in Maps, but not for my Linux and Windows machines.  After searching around and experimenting I found a good alternative that meets with my criteria in the form of Here’s mapping system.  Here is owned by Nokia and is primarily a product company for embedding maps into platforms.  Their TOS explicitly states they do not sell data to third parties as well.  It has location searching, with enhanced metadata, it has traffic overlays, and it has driving directions.  That’s 90% of what I use maps for.  This is therefore going to be my go-to maps when I’m not on my iOS devices.

Next Steps:

So what do we do now?  Do I delete and deactivate all of these accounts now?  That’s what some people are suggesting and doing.  The logic there being that if the accounts are deleted then that hurts their metrics.  There is some logic to that but that is missing a point about which metrics matter to Silicon Valley types.  Sheer user counts are important but even more important are Monthly Active Users (MAUs), or an even newer metric Daily Active Users (DAUs).  It doesn’t matter if you have one million users if only one hundred show up every day.  Just ask MySpace that question.  By simply stopping using these services you are substantially hitting these companies where it hurts.  A second argument for deleting accounts is destroying access to the data.  If ever there was a time to do that it was years ago.  With these latest stories access to your data will be far more limited than it was up until a few months ago.  Any data you have in those systems is probably all over the planet now, sadly.  Deleting it won’t put that genie back in the bottle.  At the same time there is no reason to continue to add to their data pile moving forward.

With all that said, while my strategy says to get on the #deletefacebook and #deletegoogle bandwagon, what I’m really doing is stopping usage of those systems.  I’m not going to delete accounts I’m simply going to stop using them and contributing to their databases on me.  I’m going to redirect my personal usage and my contacts to my new systems.  I know I’m going to have tendril accesses to some things, like needing those Google Drive and Calendar features for some limited cases, but by comparison to how I’ll be using the other systems it will be negligible data.  So here is to leaving behind these walled gardens that have been selling me and my data along with millions of others to the highest bidder regardless of their customer’s scruples or intentions.  On to hopefully better days.

Status Summary:

  • Replacement for Facebook and Twitter: Diaspora
  • Replacement for Facebook Messenger: Wickr
  • Replacement for Google: DuckDuckGo
  • DuckDuckGo plugin to block data sipping services: https://duckduckgo.com/app
  • Replacement for Facebook Groups: Websites and Reddit (read only)
  • Replacement for Facebook Events: Evite, Calendars, Friendica Events
  • Replacement for YouTube: TBD
  • Replacement for Gmail and Google Drive: KolabNow
  • Replacement for Google Maps: Apple Maps and HereWEGO

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