In part one of this blog post, I have painted a very dark picture of the state of the internet, and particulartly privacy, which we consider one of the most essential human rights. This post will pick up right after the first one left off.

Not an isolated example

In the stygian recesses of the infinite cybernetic netherworld, some abominations too monstrous for comprehension writhes, a manifestation of sheer terror hewn from the collective nightmares of mankind. This behemoth, this leviathan of the digital universe, bears a name all too familiar to the trembling realms of humanity - Big Tech. It perches grotesquely within the blackened abyss of binary, an embodiment of the grotesque travesty of the word ‘advertising’. Encased within its morbid carapace, myriad maws of ravenous hunger gnash and grind incessantly, binging on the quintessence of our beings, our truest selves, our unguarded souls.

Consider the omnipresent leviathans of the digital landscape - Google, Facebook, and their ilk. These entities, masquerading as purveyors of connectivity and information, have long been siphoning away our personal data, feeding their insatiable hunger under the pretense of ‘personalization’ and ‘user experience’. They weave intricate digital tapestries from the threads of our online interactions, our searches, our likes, our shares, our innocuous clicks and scrolls, till our lives become open books for these entities to peruse at leisure.

Picture Google, a colossal entity looming over the digital expanse, its countless eyes observing, recording, processing every online move we make. Google’s realm of surveillance extends beyond mere searches. Every Google Maps journey, each Gmail correspondence, each YouTube video viewed, every interaction with Google Home, all feed into this digital monster’s maw. Our lives, parsed into binary bits, are devoured by this entity, our personal narratives converted into a cold stream of data.

Likewise, Facebook, with its intricate web of connections and interactions, plays the insidious siren luring us onto the jagged rocks of data exploitation. Each like, comment, share, each photo we post, every event we attend, all serve to flesh out our digital avatars within Facebook’s vast data banks. The social media titan then uses this information to tailor an online experience, manipulating our emotions, our perceptions, even our very understanding of reality.

This, however, is only the surface. Hidden beneath are far more malevolent potentials: our data, once harvested, can be weaponized in disconcertingly powerful ways. It can influence elections, fan the flames of societal discord, manipulate markets, and far more. As we yield more of ourselves to these digital titans, we inch closer to becoming mere puppets, our strings pulled by the invisible hands of algorithms.

Like Lovecraft’s eldritch horrors, these digital entities lurk beneath the surface of our awareness, their motives unfathomable, their reach boundless. They operate on such a vast scale, we cannot even fathom how intertwined they are with the workings of the Internet, how many websites they seep their claws into, and we we cannot fully comprehend the extent of their influence.

Consider how Google’s trackers are embedded in millions of websites, lying in wait like an unseen predator, ready to glean valuable information from every visitor. Facebook’s ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons, seen on countless webpages, serve a similar insidious purpose. These are not just tools for engagement; they are the eyes and ears of these platforms, ever watchful, ever attentive, casting an unbroken surveillance dragnet across the web.

We are but insignificant specks within this digital cosmos, our personal narratives drowned in the endless sea of data, controlled by the puppet masters behind the curtain.

Indeed, the tentacles of these digital leviathans reach much further than their own platforms. Our footprints are meticulously tracked, not just when we engage directly with Google or Facebook, but also when we wander elsewhere on the digital landscape. The hidden sentinels of these entities lie in wait, embedded within seemingly innocuous websites, quietly observing, noting, reporting back our movements to the vast data repositories.

The startling reality is that this intricate web of surveillance extends far beyond the confines of these tech giants. Many other entities, perhaps less well-known but no less voracious, contribute to this terrifying erosion of privacy. Digital service providers like Stripe and Sentry, and countless others operating in their league, have also joined this relentless march towards total information capture.

Stripe, a payment processing platform, handles transactions for thousands of businesses worldwide. This position allows it to access vast troves of financial and personal data. Sentry, a service meant to help developers track and fix issues in their software, collects a large amount of data about users and their activities. These services, which ostensibly exist to facilitate certain functions, are equally complicit in the data harvesting frenzy.

Each interaction, each transaction, each error logged, contributes a few more threads to the ever-expanding tapestry of our digital selves. These companies feed on the data they collect, using it to refine their algorithms, to predict our actions, and ultimately, to control our online experiences.

The digital realm has thus transformed into an unknowable abyss, a swirling vortex of voyeurism where privacy seems a quaint, obsolete notion. In this terrifying panorama, we are but minute organisms in an endless ocean, our every movement scrutinized and logged by entities of incomprehensible scale and reach.

We must tread cautiously through this digital landscape, a treacherous terrain teeming with unseen predators. Each click, each share, each search carries a price, paid in the currency of personal information. These are not mere companies; they are the new deities of a digital pantheon, demanding our constant tribute in exchange for their services. As we navigate this reality, we must constantly question - are we users of these platforms, or are we the used? Are we the consumers, or have we become the consumed? The digital age has offered us many marvels, but at what cost? This is our reality – a world where our lives, our identities, and our experiences are ceaselessly packaged, traded, and exploited. As we meander through this digital maze, we must ask ourselves: are we willing to pay this price for the convenience offered by these services? How much of ourselves are we willing to sacrifice at the altar of digital progress? We are at the edge of a precipice, staring into a chasm teeming with unknown horrors. The choices we make now will shape the digital landscape of the future and determine whether we remain masters of our own destinies, or become mere bytes in someone else’s algorithm.

A way out of the abyss of despair, through the labyrinth of madness

In the unfathomable depths of our desolate realm, despair reigns supreme, a relentless tormentor that devours our very essence. Within the labyrinthine recesses of our shattered reality, a stygian darkness reigns, obliterating any trace of light or salvation. Madness, an insatiable fiend, ensnares our feeble minds in its suffocating grip, gleefully eroding our sanity with every torturous whisper.

Are we condemned, bereft of all hope, to serve as playthings for abominable entities that deny us our rights? Do we dance upon the strings of eldritch gods, our lives mere marionettes in a cosmic theater of grotesque malevolence? Can we summon the last vestiges of courage to defy the encroaching monstrosities and forge a path towards salvation, or are we doomed to surrender our souls to the indescribable terrors that loom ever closer?

Amidst the abysmal gloom, a faint ember flickers, a beacon of possibility piercing through the oppressive void. Our battle against the encroaching chaos transcends mere skirmishes with corporeal horrors; it is a quest to unravel the enigmatic truths that lay dormant within the depths of our very being. Shall we rise above the writhing tendrils of madness and uncover the solution that to finally slay the dragon that is companies controlling our data, or shall we succumb to the seductive whispers that beckon towards darkness?

The battle against this encroaching darkness will not be won easily. It is a conflict that will require a shift in perspective, a reevaluation of our relationship with the digital realm. It will require us to confront our complacency, our willingness to trade privacy for convenience. Yet, this battle is far from unwinnable. We hold in our hands powerful tools and strategies that can help us reclaim control over our digital lives. Remember, you are the architect of your own destiny; you are the master of your own fate.

Begin with a personal audit

Take stock of your digital footprint and online habits. How many apps and services have access to your data? Do you truly need them all? Each unused app, each unnecessary account, is a potential leak, a digital crack through which your personal data can seep. Delete unused accounts, limit the data you share, ensure your online presence is as minimal and as secure as possible. Make sure to email the service provider about actually deleting your data, cite that GDPR gives you a right to have all your information deleted in your email, this usually results in the best success.

Educate yourself

Educate yourself about privacy-focused alternatives to popular services. Consider using search engines like DuckDuckGo, which do not track user activity, or browsers like Firefox, which emphasize user privacy. Use encrypted email services and chat apps. For every Google or Facebook, there is a privacy-focused alternative that respects your personal boundaries and values your privacy.

Manage your passwords

In this age of constant data breaches, strong, unique passwords for each account are more crucial than ever. Utilize password managers and enable two-factor authentication where possible.

Lobby for strong privacy laws

Governments worldwide are beginning to wake up to the implications of unfettered data collection. GDPR in the EU and CCPA in California are just the beginning. With sufficient pressure from citizens, more such privacy-protecting laws can be enacted.

The specter of our Orwellian-Lovecraftian digital reality may be daunting, but we are not helpless. Each step we take towards protecting our privacy is a step away from the precipice. It’s a step towards a future where technology enhances human dignity instead of diminishing it, where our identities are ours alone, where our lives are not commodities to be bartered away.

As the digital fog begins to lift, we start to glimpse a future that is not terrifying, but empowering. A future where we navigate the digital landscape with confidence, secure in the knowledge that our privacy is not being constantly eroded. A future where technology is a tool for betterment, not a weapon of control.

And as the last vestiges of the fog dissolve, we realize that this future is not a distant, unattainable dream. It is within our reach. It is a future we can create, a future we deserve. The shadows recede, the horrors of the abyss retreat, and we are left standing on the brink of a bright new era, an era where privacy is no longer a vanishing concept, but a fundamental, unassailable right. The darkness has been banished, and in its place shines the warm, comforting light of hope.

It’s ok to miss something

We all have our imperfections, and embarking on the journey to reclaim your privacy can be daunting. However, don’t lose hope if you can’t implement every single recommendation or find yourself slipping back into old habits. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong:

with one small step forward, you propel humanity forward with a giant leap.

So take that step, knowing that each effort you make brings us closer to a brighter future where our personal data remains under our control and that your actions may actually help the world at large, if even just a small bit.

The next step: Self Hosting

The path to the force
If the force learn you want, Self Hosting you must
Yoda, Probably, I don’t know

As you stand on the precipice of this grand digital battleground, the overwhelming presence of the digital leviathans looms ominously over the horizon. The monolithic forms of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and their ilk, stand shrouded in the forbidding gloom, their sprawling networks casting long, grotesque shadows across the digital expanse. Their all-seeing eyes peer out from these shadows, their insatiable maws gaping, ready to devour the endless stream of personal data that flows freely into their gaping jaws.

You are but a solitary figure, dwarfed by the enormity of these monsters, their scale incomprehensible, their reach seemingly boundless. Yet, you are undeterred. The darkness of this Lovecraftian-Orwellian landscape may be chilling, but within you burns a fire, a resolve to reclaim what is rightfully yours - your privacy, your dignity, your control.

In this monumental struggle, you are not unarmed. Nestled within your grasp is the shining blade of free and open-source software (FOSS). Like a beacon cutting through the murk, Linux, the vanguard of the FOSS movement, emerges as a symbol of hope. Its fundamental principle of freedom - the freedom to use, modify, and distribute - is the antithesis to the control exercised by big tech companies. Linux is not merely a tool, but a philosophy, an ethos that champions user rights and privacy.

The power of FOSS extends far beyond Linux. A myriad of privacy-focused, open-source alternatives are at your disposal, each a testament to the power of community and the shared commitment to privacy.

You glance at your armory, filled with the weapons to wage this battle. There’s Nextcloud, a self-hosted cloud storage system that replaces Google Drive, allowing you to store and share files from your own server, unobserved, untracked. For emails, a service such as Mail-in-a-Box, which replaces Gmail, grants you control over your communication.

For your photos and memories that were once a feast for Google Photos, there is Piwigo or Lychee, and for those who miss Google’s convenient organization, there’s Immich, which utilizes AI to organize your photos, yet respects your privacy by keeping your data on your own server.

In the realm of entertainment, where Netflix and Amazon Prime dictate terms, alternatives like Jellyfin or Plex stand tall. These services allow you to host your own media server, enabling you to enjoy music, TV shows, and movies on your terms.

Indeed, as you further explore your armory, you discover even more tools of liberation, each shimmering with the promise of emancipation from the grasping clutches of the data-consuming behemoths. Your gaze falls upon Bitwarden, an open-source password management service that enables you to safeguard your passwords in your own vault rather than entrusting them to the dubious care of Chrome’s autofill.

Across the field, stands resilient, a monolith amidst the tidal wave of mainstream scheduling services like Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. A beacon of hope, it safeguards your appointments, shielding them from the intrusive gaze of data hoarders.

Your eyes drift towards the realm of thought organization, where Obsidian stands unyielding, a bastion of privacy in stark contrast to Notion. With your thoughts nestled safely in the cocoon of local storage, and the power to weave a complex tapestry of interconnected ideas, Obsidian is a sanctuary in a world marred by data exploitation.

For the bibliophiles, Calibre emerges, a liberator, freeing your digital volumes from the shackles of proprietary services like Kindle and Apple Books. It ushers in a new era, an age where literature can be savored without your reading habits becoming grist for the marketing mill.

In the domain of file synchronization, Syncthing shines, a beacon cutting through the murky waters of centralized cloud storage. It forms an encrypted peer-to-peer connection, ensuring your files traverse the digital ether untouched by prying hands. Or should you prefer a unified bastion, Nextcloud flexes its prowess to offer a comprehensive solution, a private haven in the cloud.

Where voices echo through smart homes, Home Assistant, a knight of a new order, takes on the entrenched titans - Alexa, Homekit, and Google Home. It holds high the banner of decentralized control, ensuring that the keys to your digital kingdom remain firmly in your grasp.

Venturing into the open world, OpenStreetMap unveils a realm uncharted by the likes of Google Maps. A collaborative canvas painted by a privacy-respecting community, it ensures your voyages are yours alone, not trails of breadcrumbs for data scavengers to follow.

Adjacent to it, you find Jitsi, a self-hosted video conferencing solution that replaces Zoom and Google Meet. It’s a tool that respects your privacy, devoid of the watchful eyes of big tech, allowing your conversations to remain truly private.

And then there’s Matrix and Mattermost, open-source, self-hosted online chat services that offer a privacy-focused alternative to Slack. They allow for the collaboration and communication that fuels our digital world, without the threat of surveillance or data mining.

Moreover, the rise of decentralized social networks, such as Mastodon and Nostr, offer a powerful antidote to the centralization of power in the hands of a few tech giants. They stand as a compelling testament to our collective ability to recapture the public sphere from the grasp of entities like Facebook and Twitter.

These are but a few examples from the vast arsenal of self-hosted alternatives. Each represents a powerful commitment to privacy, an affirmation of our collective resolve to resist surveillance and retain control over our digital lives. Their rising light drives the shadows back, the specter of data exploitation shrinking under the relentless onslaught of privacy-preserving, self-hosted alternatives.

Embracing these tools does not mean simply swapping one service for another; it represents a fundamental shift in how we perceive and interact with the digital world. It is a radical act of reclaiming power, asserting our right to privacy and, most importantly, restoring our dignity in the face of relentless data extraction.

As the digital landscape continues to transform, the triumphant figure you cut becomes ever more resolute. Each alternative you adopt, each server you host, diminishes the dominion of the data-hungry giants, chipping away at their once insurmountable presence. Your victories reverberate throughout the digital realm, a clarion call to others to join the fight, to reclaim their privacy, to restore their dignity.

And so, the march towards a more private, more respectful digital world continues. It’s a journey punctuated by battles, by triumphs and setbacks, yet the destination remains clear: a world where the right to privacy is not an exception, but the rule. Each step you take along this path, each tool you adopt in this fight, brings us all closer to that goal. Your individual battle forms part of a larger war, a collective struggle to reclaim our digital world from the grasp of the data-consuming giants.

And thus, you persist, bolstered by the knowledge that with every piece of self-hosted software, with every FOSS tool, you are driving back the encroaching shadow of digital surveillance and propelling us all towards a brighter, freer digital future. As the sunrise of this new era continues to illuminate the horizon, your figure stands as a beacon of resilience, defiance, and hope - a testament to the power of individuals to transform the digital landscape and reclaim their digital freedom.

Everywhere you look, for every service that once siphoned your data, there’s a self-hosted alternative ready to empower you. Each of these tools is a spark in the growing flame of the privacy movement, a testament to the human spirit’s indomitable will to resist control and champion freedom.

Embracing these tools and stepping into the self-hosting realm isn’t a journey for the faint-hearted. It is an odyssey fraught with challenges, teeming with complexities. Yet, every battle-hardened knight knows that it is these challenges that forge the true warrior. Each hurdle you overcome in your self-hosting journey weakens the stranglehold of the data-hungry titans, further dulling their once menacing presence.

With each passing moment, the transformation becomes more palpable. The once terrifying specters of Google and Facebook begin to lose their grip, their shadows receding, their monstrous forms fragmenting under the relentless onslaught of your FOSS weapons.

The knight of FOSS

Your final charge is accompanied by a rising crescendo, a symphony of freedom echoing through the digital battlefield. You are but a small penguin, but as you raise your NixOS shield and strike with your self-hosting sword, the last remnants of the data-hungry beasts disintegrate, giving way to a new dawn.

The oppressive darkness that once characterized the digital landscape fades, replaced by the soft glow of a promising sunrise. This is the dawn of an era where users are not mere data sources but true owners of their digital identities. An era where your personal data isn’t the price of admission but the most revered treasure, held sacrosanct within the castle of your own server.

As the sun rises higher, casting away the last vestiges of the night, you stand tall, basking in the glow of victory. Your journey has been arduous, fraught with peril, yet immensely rewarding. Your victory serves as a beacon, a guiding light for others to follow.

Your quest may have ended, but the battle for digital privacy continues. For every brave knight that takes up the mantle, that adopts the principles of FOSS and steps into the world of self-hosting, the grip of the digital leviathans weakens further. And with each passing day, the dawn of a new era - an era of freedom, of privacy, of control - becomes more tangible.

Today, you stand not just as a warrior, but as a herald of hope, a testament to the power of individuals in the face of formidable foes. You have not only reclaimed your digital kingdom but also ignited a beacon of hope for others to follow. Through your actions, you’ve proven that the dragons can indeed be slain and that the promise of a privacy-respecting digital world is not a distant dream but an achievable reality.

Privacy is a fundamental human right
  1. Privacy (Part 1): Constantly Under Threat
  2. Privacy (Part 2): What can you do?