When I talk about how Google is violating people’s rights over privacy, some people claim that Google is providing service and in return it gathers information. It’s true, however, Google doesn’t provide service, Google gets service from us. Google made some platforms and apps to collect personal information from you and you’re providing your service (which is your information) to it.

I can’t force anyone to use privacy-focused stuff, even if I could, I wouldn’t. I believe people should at first understand the true value of their freedom and privacy, then choose to use a service. Currently, due to wrong education systems, people are forced to use proprietary and privacy-violating stuff. Our schools are using Microsoft apps and teachers only teach proprietary software.

Let me explain something to you first. When we say Google, we doesn’t mean Google specifically. We mean Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Apple, and every other company or software that is violating people’s privacy. We call it GMAFIA & Friends.

Is Google Honest?

Google (as example) is not honest. They gather a lot of information and data from you without you knowing about it. It’s whether hidden somewhere in their long ToS or Privacy statement or not written anywhere. Sometimes Google uses law loopholes and sometimes it simply lies. For example, it wasn’t long ago that we found out that Apple allows its contractors to listen to Siri recordings. They never mentioned it in their privacy policy and they had to apologize for it (source).

Companies are not honest with you. Honesty, in the matter of privacy, means that you are allowed to know and control all the information and details about the process of receiving, processing, and sharing information. Letting you know about part of the process is not honesty.

Why Honesty Doesn’t Matter?

Now let’s talk about how GMAFIA & Friends‘ honesty has nothing to do with respecting people’s privacy. Imagine that Google lets you know about every single detail of how it collects your personal information and you have control on whether using Google or not using it. Google is still collecting your information.

Google might be honest about how it’s collecting your information but that doesn’t make a difference on your privacy situation. Me letting you know that I’m stealing your foods doesn’t make me a good person nor changes the fact that your foods are stolen.

GMAFIA & Friends are stealing your data. Very specific data. They know almost everything about you. What you buy online (and possibly offline), what websites you visit, where you go, what car you own, what you like, what you dislike, your name, place of birth, social and relationship status, your education, your friends, your contacts, what pictures you like to capture, your hobbies, and a lot of other stuff, they know about it and you can’t do anything about it.

Even if you request to delete all your data, they whether reject your request or use a loophole. In this case, backups are the loopholes. GMAFIA & Friends have unlimited amount of backup of your data that they can use anytime they want without your consent (source).

But their honesty is not totally worthless. They are forced to be honest and we can use this honesty against them themselves to spread the facts about how they use us as their product. It’s not enough but it’s not useless either. Another fact is that most of the times, it was us people who found out about this manipulation and GMAFIA & Friends didn’t tell us.

How About Law Enforcement?

As I said before, laws actually don’t help at the moment. They are not very strict and GMAFIA & Friends happen to have a lot of power over governments. The story of firing Barry Lynn which was working at the New America Foundation, a Washington thinktank, is an example. He was fired because Google, one of the thinktank’s biggest funders, was unhappy with the direction of his research, which was increasingly calling for tech giants including Google, Facebook and Amazon to be regulated as monopolies. The Guardian published a story of it and how Silicon Valley is the new political power in Washington in 2017 (source).

Law enforcement will be useful if it forces companies to stop collecting people’s private data. Even keeping private data and not sharing them with third-parties is not enough. As I said, what is wrong is that they collect these data. The fight is not about choosing prison, it’s about freedom. We should not choose bad over worse, we should choose the better over good.

With current law, even Swiss law, the best thing that can happen is that companies are not able to share our data without hiding the process. What we should fight for is to stop them from collecting data that can be used to identify us (in any format or medium) so we wouldn’t worry about whether they share this data or not.

What Should We Do Then?

What we should/can do is to use free software. The first step to be sure that a software or service is respecting us, is knowing that the software or service we use respects our rights. Free software makes sure the four essential freedom.

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

A program is free software (or software libre) if it gives users adequately all of these freedoms. Otherwise, it is nonfree (proprietary). While we can distinguish various nonfree distribution schemes in terms of how far they fall short of being free, we consider them all equally unethical (source).

A free software program or service gives us freedom to study and modify the software/service we use so we can make sure it respects our rights about freedom and privacy. Even if it does not respect our privacy, we can modify it in a way to make it respect us.

What About Services That Work With Our Private Data?

It’s true that some services or apps need our private data to work. For example, an app that shows your current place or where you parked your car needs to know your location. However, it doesn’t need to transmit this information to a company and even if it needs to do so, it doesn’t need to be stored in a way to make identifying people possible.

Data can be stored anonymously. They can store information in a way that it doesn’t store our personal information. They can make this data anonymous. One way is to assign a random ID number to each user and store related data in their database so they can provide service and respect our privacy as well.

This way, we pay for the service with money, not with our data and profiles. Nothing is free in the world. Everything has a cost. We either pay with money or we pay with our data.

Respect yourself. Be the user, not the product.