To explain how privacy had an impact on my life, I need to start from the beginning.
NB! I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Security from the University of Bergen. Which is basically an equivalent to a Computer Science Bachelor’s with an added emphasis on security.
I remember when I got the email saying I got accepted into Computer Security I was a bit let down because I actually wanted to study just Computer Science. But I thought I’d give it a go, this was at the end of summer in 2017.
Fast-forward one year, I’m taking this class which I didn’t really think would be any interesting called: Internet Security. I remember the first lecture, it was about online banking, specific to Norway. How our social security numbers work, how banking systems was flawed in the early 2000s. But then in the second or third lecture we learned about Snowden’s revelations from 2013. I always thought I was aware of how bad foreign actors (big corporations etc.), specifically from the US was. But I was so wrong. The revelations spanned across two separate lectures. And immediately after the first one I started to make some changes.
During that same semester someone close to me became really ill and I had to move home for some time. During that time I had a lot of time to think, and I remember I spent a decent amount of time taking actions for my online privacy and security. My first step was to migrate my email over to ProtonMail (PM) from Gmail. I have had an account at PM for a few years already, but never really used it. I got a paid account with a custom domain and started using alias-addresses for my services. But that took a toll on my ability to remember passwords and which email alias I had used for which service. So I started using Bitwarden.
Something else I also discovered was PrivacyGuides (formerly known as PrivacyTools) and PrismBreak. I used these sites to find alternatives for some apps and services I was already using. I tried a lot of them, some were bad and some were good and I still use some today.
When I was unable to find alternatives I tried to look up their policies and read what others said about them. What were the drawbacks of using this service, what did I give up.
I also switched from Android, my Pixel 2 to an iPhone XS, because I wanted Google out of my life. I switched from Google Drive to Sync.com to Tresorit to iCloud. I started using all the services from Apple since they were advertising themselves as the privacy-conscious company…
I didn’t delete any of my social media accounts before 2021, but I did start hardening my accounts immediately after I learned all about the Snowden revelations. I read blogposts, tutorial and guides for making sure everything was as hardened as possible.
I still think back to what things was like before I got “paranoid” (this is meant as joke), and I think I was ignorant for not being conscious about what, where and how I was doing stuff online. And I’m glad that I have a more conscious attitude on doing stuff online now.
I have since 2018 managed to get my close family and friends to start using Signal for our daily communications. I always vet a service before I start using it, I use AlternativeTo to check for Open Source alternatives I discover. I help people get started with password managers, since I know it can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. I stopped using cloud-storage in 2021 and have self-hosted my own cloud at home, where I use Nextcloud.
And to summaries what I’ve learned:
- I’m more conscious about what services I use.
- I read or find a TL;DR for privacy policies for new services.
- I nudge people in a more privacy-respecting direction.
- Self-hosting is awesome and takes a lot of time to just get right.
- It can look scary at first, but the result is better than the alternative.
- I try to own my own data as much as I can.
When I come to think about it I don’t think it has been so inconvenient in a sense where I just want to say “Fuck it, let’s just the downsides”. But I have to admit, I’m using some services that goes against my belief of privacy-respecting solutions. And I’m so grateful that my friends and family has started to take an interest in why privacy (and security) is important.