The Cost Of Keeping your Soul

Click-bait title much?

Well, the flip-side to that is ‘selling your soul’, or in my case, data. I am not a privacy freak. I don’t wear any tin-foil hats, and my roof is not camouflaged to hide me from imaging satellites. I just enjoy a few simple things when it comes to my hosted content and services. I don’t care that my email may be scanned continuously so that Google or whomever, can build the world’s best NLP AI… I do mind when it’s being scanned and monitored to the point where humor, jokes and otherwise innocent chats between friends can be misconstrued as evil-doing. I do mind various providers of insurance, banking and hosting colluding to the point where what I do in the private capacity of one product, affects the other. Think about adverts, places you visit, warranty claim rejections – how they can all come together. Lastly, the reality is still, if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product. In its most simplistic form, I like having control over settings and features, something which Gmail did not give me much of recently when they started adding everything legit I received, to spam, or when they stopped allowing me to use them to alias my email domains… or the fact that some stuff just never arrives through them (a lot of my banking and trading stuff never made it through, and as per their logs, Gmail blocked and denied it).

Apart from email, which I use everyday, all the time for everything – there are some other things I don’t mind paying ‘too much’ for in the long run.

I need storage, online. No amount of “home servers” and hard-disks can protect me from loss, and putting stuff on a magical cloud out there, helps a lot, if not only psychologically. My typical storage content isn’t really worthy of being called confidential, or secret. The odd document scan I like to keep around, friends details, articles I keep copies of as well as my Google Docs stuff (my budget spreadsheet, fish tank logs, mead logs…) are about as private as it gets. The convenience factor however, of being able to access the stuff anytime, easily, is great. Found a nice pdf during lunch-hour browsing at work? No problem, push it on to Drive, and it’s safely (arguably) stored until later.

Google Photos is amazingly features, with old “2 years ago” photo memories, timelined photos, free backups of certain resolution images (very awesome if you take snapshots with your cellphone) and the ability to expand storage (photos, and Drive) for around $2 (ZAR 25) per month for 100GB. I can’t argue that it is pretty damn good. What I can argue, is that it’s safe, reliable and that I feel sated about it. I don’t, something is not right. Will changing to ANY other service feel right? Probably not.

So here’s my current needs, what I have changed to (or use) and what I plan to use (contemplation pending…):

  • Email – moved from Google GMail to ProtonMail – very happy about this, I like Proton and it’s free or paid.
  • Happy snaps photo storage – Google Photos, for now. These images are of low importance, looking into SmugMug’s photo backup app.
  • Photography – Processed (non-raw) images, hosted and stored on SmugMug, slightly pricey, but I trust them a lot (Amazon S3 based?)
  • Random File Storage – Google Drive. $2/m for 100GB. OK price, useful, convenient. On the fence about this. Tresorit and friends costs a lot more. Contemplating my VPS
  • VPS – Virtual private linux server, where I have root access, backups and security that I define. Cheap enough, but effort to maintain myself. Possibly a good place for file storage
  • Site hosting – Whoever gives me a good deal, hosting, cheaply. Backups are important, and I don’t trust the guys I am using in a lot of cases… Own vps? Effort.
  • DNS, etc – I am yet to look into this… possibly the easiest point of privacy attack, I am aware.
  • Music – Google Play Music – Simply because that sort of data I don’t mind them harvesting. Also, every other music service I tried, sucked (Stability and availability was an issue)
  • TV – Not really something I watch.
  • Games – Steam, just because they seamlessy make updates/stuff work for me, have a lot of content, specials and since I already have a bit of stuff there.

So that is it in a nutshell.

Getting anything for free, means you are being marketed as a product in some way. It’s not always bad, or evil. Sometimes your data may be sold to marketers, and some criminally minded services out there will actually sell your data to identity thieves. Perhaps they only use the data to build a great product for themselves (which is more or less what I think google does…). What if they have leaks and hacks, what can people see, and do with your data? Can they reset your bank password, or send a nudie pic to your granny? It’s all relative, scope based and depends wildly on random factors, people, motivations and likelihoods.

A random, tangent of a post, but why not.

Share your thoughts?


PS: The smugMug link above is my referral, if you sign up with that, we both win, but you don’t have to.


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