Our Growing Data Privacy Problem
BIG TECH IS NOT YOUR FRIEND - We are in a state of surveillance marketing. Our data is being used for (or against) us commercially. Just in case you've been living under a rock, membership in or attendance to certain political events has prompted serving-up transactional information to government agencies, serving to unnecessarily complicate people's lives in an ostensibly free country.
The founders here at Patriot PC confirmed what many of you suspected all along - that our data feeds, browser sessions, emails & messages - even casual conversations - are all for sale. Whether it's Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple; your browser sessions, emails, cloud storage files, location and picture metadata including GPS location info are being read every moment. Many of us unwittingly signed-away our rights to privacy and data sovereignty years ago when we "Agreed". Some of us did this wittingly in exchange for a “more tailored experience”. Now, with a new breed of AI-enabled invasive, 7x24 surveillance marketing automation, your detailed demographics and closest secrets are now being exploited by the highest bidder. You are being listened to, watched, and manipulated by Big Tech AI and others, occasionally leading to being corralled into your own echo-chamber or even censored.
Also consider that Google Incognito simply clears your browser’s search history. With Incognito turned on, your activity isn’t necessarily private. Some of you might also think Apple's 2021 decision to put app privacy controls in the hands of users is sufficient for mobile platform privacy, but think again. It now has Apple monetizing your habits and location instead.
GOD GIVEN FIRST AMENDEMENT RIGHT - Our founders are Patriots with multiple tours of duty under their belts, ample security clearances and storied careers in Fortune 500 industries. Your freedom of speech, privacy and anonymity is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and a corporate priority. Patriot PC is dedicated to preserving your sovereignty over your own data as a basic, God-given right, one of many we believe our government should be protecting, not exploiting, domestically, commercially and internationally. We help do this through products and services that help keep your in-motion data and your at-rest data, such as social media, storage and email contents, encrypted and/or anonymous. We strive to feature and add value to products made in the United States of America, but are limited by waning on-shore OEM choices. We start with a privacy-enabling computing platform, the Patriot PC laptop.
HOW DOES OPEN SOURCE HELP? The FOSS (Free Open Source Software) movement has created and serves to supports indisputably the most secure, privacy-minded operating systems and applications in the world. Millions of eyes inspect the code for quality and nefarious intent every day. By selecting the Linux Mint Cinnamon edition, 20.2 update and pre-installing this on a proven, recycled hardware platform, you take a solid first step at regaining your data privacy. Mint is as close to Windows and MacOS user interfaces as you’ll find and has a rich set of applications, most available free Software Manager, minimizing the learning curve. For more views and experts on using Linux, follow Jeffrey Peterson's Telegram.
WHAT'S NEXT? - Read on for solutions and see the Products pages on the website for our progressive solution and products that are available to help. It's a continuum, not an all-or-nothing approach. There are several things you can do today without significantly changing your life, but we believe, from experience, that the first most impactful step to take is to move off of the Big Tech operating systems and free services that treat you and your data as marketing fodder.
Solution - Steps To Digital Freedom
There are as many approaches to data privacy as there are technologies. It's ultimately your choice as it's really a cost/benefit or effort/impact decision on your part. Do not take the following as verbatim, only as a generalized approach. We suggest you do your own homework on the Internet, then we think you'll agree. A staged or phased solution, tailored to your goals and budget, is preferred.
THE DO's - Assuming you're not actually in the espionage business, but are interested in data privacy, and as a result do not want to share your personal information (inc. your demographics, likes/dislikes, buying history, contact info or whereabouts) with strangers, you need to minimize your digital footprint or exhaust, avoiding leaving things that can be traced back to you, or that serve to develop or contribute to entities that build, manage or broker a profile on you.
100% SOLUTION - If you are fully committed to digital hygiene you should consider ditching all your Big Tech tools, deleting any social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, etc.), purging your profiles first, deleting cloud storage service accounts (iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive) and deleting any un-encrypted email accounts. After you do this, don't forget to notify vendors or service providers that you now need to communicate via new anonymous surface addresses or email account(s) you open. You will need to build a new, private, confidential identity. Use only encrypted email and storage service, preferably with operations in Switzerland. Put your whole house or at least you PC and phone of interest on a VPN - not a free service, but one that works and scales well without compromising your identity. ProtonMail has a good email, storage and VPN service , for example, but there are many good ones out there. See Rob Braxston's thoughts here as another good point of reference.
80% SOLUTION - Instead of deleting accounts and resetting your life so much, consider the option of maintaining two distinct identities; continuing the public one you have already established, and launching a new one one that intentionally minimizes your trail. Keep in mind the two can never cross as some simple relationship mapping and a few well-placed subpoenas or network sniffers from 3rd parties will find where you have mentioned one identity (such as email address or social media handle) on the other. This makes you easier to be marketed to, monitored, sanctioned or worse. For the private identity, access it with only a Linux-based platform(s). Microsoft, Apple and Google operating system user agreements give them great latitude with your data. Also, be strategic about and limit the use of cloud services (such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple iCloud, Google, Microsoft accounts) as these capture identification information and/or cookies that can expose your identity. Also, avoid search engines that capture and leverage your search history such as Google, Yahoo, etc.
We see this as the most practical alternative. To make it more actionable and specific, here's a plan:
Linux - Buy one of our Mint Linux laptops to make securing the privacy of that new identity easier. There are plenty of good, free Mint video tutorials for new users. Once up and running, do as many of steps 2-6 as possible.
Avoid Search Tracking - Be sure the default search engine in Firefox is DuckDuckGo.com to avoid being marketed-to.
Private Browsing - Consider using the tor browser as installed on the laptop to encrypt and obfuscate your browsing identity.
Consider removing your social media presence all together. Keep in mind folks like FB continue to garden a profile on you after you are gone. At least turn off their harvesting of picture metadata (leaving that only for your cloud provider:-).
Encrypt Email - Create a free account on ProtonMail or use another selectively-encrypted email service. Without this, your emails should be treated as easily discoverable and available to any marketing firm or agency. An alternative is to start using OpenPGP-encrypted emails in Thunderbird from your current account.
Encrypt Storage - Add an encrypted cloud storage provider next to get similar protections on files. Consider off-shore (esp. Switzerland) storage locations that are more difficult to gain legal access to.
Encrypt All Network Traffic - Move to a VPN. Not a free one - our experiences there have been they are slow and can be just another marketing data gatherer anyway. We recommend running it on dedicated hardware or use your home router to keep performance up - especially useful if you are convincing a streaming service that you are domiciled in another country.
Email, storage and VPN services should cost you something as they are a service with a cost, otherwise you're probably being exploited. You can find elements bundled by some service providers such as ProtonMail and TorGuard, making them a bit easier to manage.
DON'TS - We recommend never installing these on your new identity Patriot PC laptop:
Google, Microsoft or Apple shared drive,
Free email account like Google, Microsoft or Apple, into Thunderbird or
Microsoft (including Office), Google or Apple (esp. iTunes) products.
Each of these could lead to leaking personal information.