01 March 2012

Disrupted patterns

Well … having read all zillion pages of Google's new privacy policy, since it was published, but done nothing concrete about it, today I have started to gradually respond.

Not necessarily responding to Google, as such; responding to the totality of movements in development of the social web.

To be honest, Google's new privacy policy doesn't, in itself and at the moment, worry me overmuch. What does concern me is the idea that I might passively allow myself to be borne along by the development currents without exercising any decision making or volition of my own. Eighteen years ago (good grief, Charlie Brown … is it really eighteen years???) I wrote:

“The greatest improvement in the telephone system, over the last twenty years, is not digital technology but the little switch that lets me turn it off … … … Do you have your finger on your own selected off-switch? Do you know where, and what, your off-switch is? Have you planned how to ensure that it is never, ever, taken from within your reach? Do it now.

Well, I have drifted into a relaxation of that vigilance and Google has prodded me awake.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that Google are about to misuse my information; not now, anyway. FaceBook, yes; but Google, so far at least, is not immediately about to do anything which I don't regard as fair use under the general contract whereby I get free service in return for advertising around my edges. But that's not the point. The point is that I should not rely on Google's (or anyone else's) benevolence for maintenance of my freedom and privacy; I should take responsibility for it myself.

So, as of today, I have started to fragment those parts of my online footprint which I have in laziness allowed to coalesce.

Google provide me with the platform for this blog. That's an arrangement which works to their and my mutual benefit, and I can shift if it ever seems desirable. But have just altered the search box in FireFox to choose AltaVista as its default engine. In other browsers, I've set different defaults. In Chrome (where I am not routinely signed into my Google account) Google remains the default engine. So, my searches can no longer be tied up with other information which I give to other parts of Google.

Some of my on line material already resides with, Box or DropBox, Foliospaces or SafeSync, Wikispaces or other repositories, according to which is most appropriate for a given purpose. That satisfactorily breaks up into discrete chunks, with a disruptive camouflage pattern of natural firebreaks between them, the body of stuff which advertisers and others want (quite legitimately) to link up and over which I (equally legitimately) wish to retain control. I shall start to look, without any urgent hurry but with deliberation, for other ways to spread eggs into multiple baskets. Google Docs and Microsoft's SkyDrive are already play very minimal parts this patchwork, but I shall henceforth keep a particular eye on ensuing that they remain that way.


Matt Revell said...

Have you tried DuckDuckGo? It claims not to record your search history and let's you do neat tricks in the search box.

Felix said...

I haven't; I'll go in search of it now!