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Drop #284 (2023-06-26): Privacy, Please!
Self-Defense BaseCamp; Kill Siri; Optery
Drops this week will be shorter than usual as I'm squirreled away in my nation's capital at an official multi-day work-meeting that's going to eat up a significant portion of all waking hours. Rest assured, there will be Drops, just more “reference” than “expository” than usual.
The Self-Defense BaseCamp aims to teach individuals and families the knowledge to defend their privacy and security online. The free course covers basic topics like metadata, passwords, and trustworthy providers. It includes a privacy toolbox with recommendations for secure applications as alternatives to popular tools like Gmail, WhatsApp and Microsoft Office. The course aims to give people the awareness and tools to make conscious choices about protecting their digital freedom and data sovereignty. Most governments (yes, you too, EU members) have yet to make digital self-defense a priority, so initiatives like this are needed to fill the gap.
It's very practical and covers wide ranges of areas (I have noted where I have major disagreements with them):
Internet browsers that protect you — Note that I will not link to this b/c it recommends Brave, which is not (IMO) trustworthy at all. Longtime readers know my opine that Firefox just head fakes safety/privacy. Lots of “smart” and competent opiners recommend Brave & Firefox, so we're not just going to toss aside all the other recommendations because they also fell for marketing in this area.
Search engines that respect your privacy — Note that I will not link to this for the same reasons as the previous entry. Use Kagi.
Apple's Siri uses voice queries and artificial intelligence to perform tasks on behalf of us. However, this raises privacy concerns as Apple has been caught sending voice recordings to contractors for analysis.
While Apple claims it no longer sends audio recordings externally and processes commands locally, there are still doubts as we cannot verify this due to Apple's closed software. And, it is still impossible to fully get rid of Siri without rolling up some sleeves (on macOS).
Kill Siri describes how to set up a “kill switch” on macOS to terminate any Siri processes as soon as they are detected, by using a
LaunchAgent to monitor Siri's activity and a
LaunchDaemon to kill the processes. This ensures Siri is disabled even though Apple has integrated it into the core OS.
It's more complex than my KillValdi setup (for when I was using Vivaldi before switching to Arc) because it needs to be.
NOTE: Siri is smarter on the latest betas launched at WWDC 2023, so I've got it enabled and do no longer use this, at least until I can see if it's worth the privacy trade-off.
This is primarily for helping disconnect meatspace from cyberspace.
Optery helps humans remove their personal information from Google and over 235 other websites. They offer a free exposure report to show users which sites have their data, and paid plans to manage removals. The service covers a ton of sites (a bonkers #, really — they scan data from over 50 brokers and continue to add more), and has a free tier which provides the report, but leaves the removal up to you.
The folks at Optery do keep up with new, skeezy providers and make the removal process easy for busy users who can afford the automated options.
As usual, I get nothing for this Optery link Drop. I mention it since meatspace and cyberspace interconnect way more than they used to (for “normal” humans), and I've helped some folks get out of a data exposure bind with this on numerous occasions.
Drop any retorts, confirms, or other privacy suggestions in the comments!
Oh, and I was informed by Substack that we just blew past the 300 newsletter mark! Now, to figure out a way to get these into an LLM and make them more searchable. ☮