Usability, Privacy and the State of My Tech

I spent most of the last decade pursuing more secure and private solutions for my own tech stack. At one point, in 2020, I had largely moved away from nearly all big-tech stacks such as Apple and Google and, instead, to more self-hosted solutions that ensured the privacy of my data better than any big company could.

This past year I’ve had to reverse that trend and today I am mostly using Apple hardware and services again.

When I started moving back to Apple the reason was pretty simple. While self-hosting worked fine for me, my tech, and how I use it, affects more than just myself. My wife, my parents and other family and friends struggled to connect with me and data sharing with my was a nightmare. I guess you could say that I made my personal data so private that not even the people who needed it could get to it.

As 2021 comes to an end it is time to start on the path back to a safer tech stack. Apple itself is about to become dangerously unsafe for your privacy and the main stream alternatives, primarily Google and Microsoft, really aren’t much better.

When I started on this journey in earnest back in 2017 I didn’t have much of a plan other than to get away from an over-reliance on Apple. That lead, instead, to a reliance, first, on Google and then a hodgepodge of services that turned out to be anything but usable for those around me.

This time I have a few focuses in mind:

  1. Privacy – the privacy of my data and my family’s data is paramount. The data we generate doing the work we need to do shouldn’t define us for the purpose of manipulation. As a result I’m once again shopping for solutions that will help us escape some of the problems that have arisen with tech from Apple or Google.
  2. Usability – the solutions I move to need to be usable for both me and my family. This means chat apps that my aging parents can understand as well as ways to share regular data in apps and file formats that everyone can actually use. This was the biggest problem last time. In fact, this was the biggest reason I had to abandon our efforts and moved back to the Apple ecosystem. It wasn’t just about me and I had, in setting everything up, completely forgotten that rule.
  3. Sustainability – the hardware and software I choose needs to be sustainable. This means that the software has to be reliable and maintainable by not just me but those who use it as well. In addition it means that the hardware has to be of sufficient quality that I don’t have to replace it every one or two years. I’ve had mobile phones since 2001. In that time I’ve had over 20 phones with the longest lasting me just over 2 years. The sad thing is I usually haven’t wanted to upgrade but either I broke the device or it simply stopped working and repairs made no sense. That cycle has to stop.

This is a lot to research and change going forward but, thankfully, I don’t need to do it all in one day. My goal for now will be to start by getting photos and other data out of iCloud before Apple makes Google look like the more private alternative. From there I have plenty of opportunity to experiment and find solutions that will work for all of us.

Let’s do this.

2 Comments

  1. There are a lot of people in this situation and it is just getting worse; I doubt that it will get better. I have removed myself from a multitude of big tech ecosystems and mostly these days use my site as a hub; people can find me there, or not, but they won’t find me in the places I used to be. BUT I don’t have the added stress of responsibility for other people and their limitations either. Though my family and friends don’t apparently have any concerns for their privacy or the politics and manipulation of personal data by the corporations whose service they happily use, I don’t feel an obligation to accommodate that. After reading your post I have to wonder if it’s even possible to have it both ways…?

    • I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’m going to find out.

      It does bother me that so many of the solutions to the issues presented by big-tech can basically be summed up as “just live in a bubble.” That isn’t sustainable.

      What a world.

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