It is not until you have someone collect your information and then present to you how it could be used to compromise your life that you truly understand the threat we face to our identity just by participating on the internet. Now I was not compromised, however when I had a colleague “dox” me to see what they could find, my internet activity from the past came to haunt me. I realised with the information I had shared when I was younger and stupider could have been used to steal my identity for use in someone else’s crimes.
I am now 30 days today into the personal project to restore my privacy. To say reclaiming your privacy is easy is like saying climbing Everest is easy. That is to say it is not, you need a plan and guidance to begin to reclaim your privacy. So as I go along this journey I will tell the story of what tools I have found (especially for Australians) and what actions I have performed.
First the books I bought to help me along this journey:
2. Hiding from the Internet (Link)
I recommend getting these books and having a read of them so that you understand the extent that companies share your data for “marketing” and other purposes.
Actions I have taken
These are the first actions I have taken based on my reading to date.
1. Organised Secure Communications
First step I organised was secure email services. Investigating a number of options in this space I landed on ProtonMail. I like this service as everything is encrypted and every message is signed. The “Visionary” package allows up to 10 domains to be added to the service, which allowed me to move my existing domains to the service had have them operate through it. This one move then allowed me to plan to phase out my yahoo, outlook, gmail and iCloud account for email use. This is one step closer to removing tracking by google on everything I visit and look up.
I had already been a fan of signal for a while for text messaging, however it now allows for encrypted voice calls as well. The challenge implementing this one was to get close friends and family to use it. Hopefully when I drop off Facebook and they come looking they will find this page and take the message seriously.
I have implemented Wire as well as a secure messaging service. Wire has several benefits from a collaboration tool for managing group communication.
Now that I had these I then moved onto step 2
2. Remove every mailing list
Over the past 15 years I have made it onto a number of mailing lists form technology companies trying to sell me stuff to spammers trying to get me to register for crap. Spam filters are great but I really did not read the 100 messages a day of useless crap. I went through a lot of unsubscribe screens using a secure browser (Firefox with plugins). This took a month to actually clean up to the point where I just have emails that are unable to be unsubscribed from.
Notes on mailing lists
I had been good in that, having had my own domains for a while I had individualised each email address based on the company or service I had used the email on. For those services I still want email from I have now taken this to the next level using 33mail.com.
33mail.com is a forwarding service which allows you to generate an email alias that is unique and forward that to a specified email address. So now instead of using my actual domains, I am using a number of 33mail forwarders to subscribe to services.
Also I no longer use my real name, address or date of birth on any rewards or marketing sites. I have a PO Box that I use and I am looking into other alternatives for addressing.
3. Remove public content from social media
One of the first things I have done is start to tidy up my social media feeds and really determine if they are actually of value to me. It is once said that if you are not paying for a service or product then you become that product and this is true on those services. As such I have taken the following steps:
– Removed posts
I have gone to the effort of deleting every tweet and post I have made in the past 12 years. That is every post, all my photos of my holidays, every event I went to. The only post on Facebook now is the notice to friends that I am leaving Facebook and to get my new details. I have even removed my face from profiles where I have found it and replaced it with an avatar. This includes untangling myself from photos and other posts, sorry people but I won’t exist on that service shortly.
– Closed down accounts
There were a number of accounts I just did not use anymore, or ever if truth be told, so these were shut down immediately.
– Accounts I am keeping
I will keep my Twitter account and my LinkedIn account for professional reasons, however my posts will be tightly controlled and will not have any details that lead directly to my current life.
I will be deleting Facebook for my personal account, including the removal of the app from my devices. If you have found that I have left facebook and cannot work out how to contact me, then email me at (firstname.lastname@example.org). Likewise if you want more information on how to become more private in Australia reach out.
Next post will go into why I am doing this as well as the next actions I have taken, including the trial of Revolut, a service available in Australia that has disposable virtual credit cards you can use for online purchases. Cards that can only be used once and they self destruct for a new number.
Till next time.