I avoided the dumbphone trap myself for years, relying on a ‘burner’ phone that did only what it said on the tin (phone calls and text messages). I’ve had it for years. It only cost me a fiver, and as I kept it for emergencies I haven’t actually had to top up its (pay-as-you-go) account for ages. Just call me a cheapskate.
My brother gave me his old dumbphone when he ‘upgraded’ his, and I’ve been using that for a year now. I can’t deny that this new (to me) widget is useful in many ways, and don’t resent the monthly tenner I pay for the connection. I find it especially invaluable in waiting rooms and queues; I’ve never mastered the knack of chit-chatting with strangers, despite that being a time-honoured tradition.
I am leery of the creepy tracking issue, though. When 99% of dumbphone users adopt a sheep-like mentality, refusing to rise up as one in united outrage against the constant spying, those who care are backed into a corner, with no way out.
‘The American Dream’ promotes this vaunted thing called ‘individuality’. Ironic.
While it’s true that this perpetual intrusion on our privacy makes this marvellous technology so (relatively) inexpensive, it does so by allowing its vendors to hawk our personal information to all and sundry.
There are alternatives.
- Once upon a time, we used to send letters in things called ‘envelopes’, protected by custom — and in some cases, regulation and even law — forbidding their opening by anyone other than the addressee. Most email systems these days do not have this feature; but some do. ProtonMail, for instance, features both ‘end-to-end‘ and ‘zero knowledge‘ encryption, which is a geeky way of saying that nobody but you and the other party can read your messages.
- Many seem to be addicted to messenger apps to keep in touch with friends and family. But we needn’t use the ones that allow snooping: you can choose to switch to Signal for its secure text conversation facilities.
- Cloud-based storage is in the ascendant. But, because of its convenience, most avail themselves of the offerings of the ‘Big Tech’ giants (such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox); the data stored there may be secure from loss, but not from prying eyes. Secure cloud alternatives exist (I use Sync.com myself).
- Your Internet service provider (‘ISP’) can record every bit of your data traffic. ‘Virtual private networks‘ (VPNs) protect against this (and some offer encrypted services too) — though you do have to choose your VPN provider carefully, as they can potentially snoop on you, too.
Impressed by its simplicity and speed compared with the bloated, sluggish, advert-riddled competition such as Lycos, AltaVista and Infoseek, I used to be an advocate of the Google search engine. That was back in the days when they proudly espoused the motto “Don’t be evil” — which has been quietly ditched since Google’s reorganisation (placing it under the ‘Alphabet’ umbrella). The insidious danger that lurks beneath the tracking is that Google’s search learns what I like to search for — and in so doing it insulates me from differing opinions. It places me in a filter bubble, an echo chamber where there are no dissenting voices; and that’s where extremists such as flat Earthers, Moon-landing and global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers and Trumpists reside.
These days, I use — and advocate — DuckDuckGo instead, which is just as simple, just as fast; and the ‘Duck Side‘ doesn’t track me, doesn’t ‘helpfully’ learn what I like, and doesn’t offer biased results.
Meanwhile, all I hear these days when I raise the subject of privacy is, “It doesn’t bother me, I have nothing to hide.” Yeah… I think that will be the last free thought most (are allowed to) have as we are frogmarched into a totalitarian global corporate state….
§ Here’s a pingback, Herb, as a thank-you for the thought-provoking link!