As a law-abiding human being, I do not ask much out of the companies I do business with. I simply want good service and a quality product out of the deal in exchange for my money and continued patronage. With certain multi-national corporations however, I am getting far more than I ever wanted—and ominously so.
The ubiquitous Google empire, with its search engine, email, navigation, Android technology, productivity tools, and YouTube, certainly has numerous services it offers to anyone with access to the internet, but what we surrender is our privacy and personal information. It uses its services to enable algorithmic technology to process and predict our buying patterns and sensibilities. As if that was not bad enough, they probably know far more about us than we would reasonably allow if we actually had a say in the matter. (Google contends that we do. I do not believe them.)
Over the last three years, I have been phasing out my usage of Google. For my purposes as a filmmaker and musician, I cannot eradicate Google completely, but I have made progress.
Here’s a list of what I’ve done:
- I do not use Gmail and have opted instead to use a company called Proton Mail that encrypts my emails and protects my data.
- I do not use Google Chrome as my web browser. I use a browser called Brave that blocks all ads and internet trackers to maintain privacy .
- I do not use Google Search and use an engine called DuckDuckGo that does not track or record your search history.
- I do not use Google Docs, Sheets, Photos, or any of its document services. I generally stick to Microsoft products or a simple text program to meet most of my writing needs.
Now, with that said, Google still has its grubby tentacles firmly entrenched in my life. My cell phone uses Android software along with Google’s ridiculously convenient navigation system. I publish my weekly short films on Google’s YouTube platform because it’s free and is an effective way to get my film work out into the world.
Someday, I’ll find a cell phone that is not manufactured by Google or Apple that is just as good as those behemoths. One day, I will not need to publish my films on Youtube to get people to watch them. Until those days come, I’m stuck in my dance with the devil for now.
If anyone out there has thoughtful suggestions about what I can do to remedy this, I am completely open to possibilities.
More recently, given the insane amounts of profit Amazon has raked in during the current Coronavirus pandemic along with its mistreatment of its warehouse employees, this worldwide monopoly is my next target. I mean no offense to close friends of mine who work for Amazon, but I’ve started to extricate myself and my purchasing power from this corporate giant.
For starters, I have stopped using Kindle technology to read ebooks. I recently purchased a different e-reader called the Kobo Libra H2O to satisfy my modern reading needs. It’s made by a Canadian company named Rakuten and does everything that Kindle does (and more).
The other more tricky way that I am eliminating Amazon from my life is not ordering from them and ending my Amazon Prime subscription. I’ve started to patronize other online companies (like Sweetwater and B and H Photo and Video) to order the film and music supplies that I need. When my prime subscription runs out in less than a year, I will not renew. I have plenty to watch on Netflix already, in addition to SO MANY BOOKS to read!!
Maybe all of this is a fool’s errand, and these huge companies, one way or another, are virtually inescapable. But is it too much to want some degree of control and balance in my life regarding my privacy and freedom of choice?
I do not think so.
These massive monopolies wanting to have a hand in so much of what I do is all feeling a little too dystopian and “big brother-ish” to me, and this cannot be good.
I’m not stopping with Google and Amazon either. I’ve got my sights set on Apple and Facebook on the eventual horizon.
What are you doing to safeguard your personal information and freedom of choice? I am doing all that I can at the moment and plan on doing a lot more.