Paul Jarvis

Take back your online privacy

There has been pressure building for many years.

On January 26, 1700 an earthquake with a magnitude of about 9 struck off the West Coast, causing a massive tsunami. It created a wave of destruction that levelled forests, devastated First Nation villages, and even struck as far away as Japan.

Geologists and other experts can’t predict exactly when the next one will strike, but that it’s inevitable. There are records that estimate they hit every three to four hundred years. And note, it’s been just over 300 years since the last one.

And no, I’m not setting up a trailer for a new Dwayne Johnson movie...

This is why I’ve got a grab and go kit and specific supplies aimed to do two things. The first is to help my family survive should anything catastrophic hit and we’re cut off from help (like a wave takes out a bridge or washes a road into the Pacific). The second is peace of mind. With a plan in place, I feel less stressed on a daily basis about it (i.e. I don’t even think about it).

I like planning for the worst, because having a plan removes it from my mental load. I don’t even have to think about the worst very often because I know I’ve got enough food and potable water for about four weeks. I’ve got supplies stored in case there’s a “a Tsunami is hitting in 20 minutes, get to higher ground” type warning (which is possible, depending on where a quake strikes).

But, to be honest, I’m less worried about an earthquake or killer wave than I am about the internet. Which may make me a digital-prepper, but I truly think that our online privacy is under assault so heavily that a digital grab and go kit is a necessary addition to its physical counterpart. And, for the same reason I’ve prepared my earthquake kit, I want to survive digitally if something catastrophic happens, but more-so, I don’t want to constantly stress out about it by not having a plan.

This attack on privacy, like earthquake cadence, has been building for years. We’ve continued to trade free access to services for personal data. And the companies we trade this to keep getting more and more greedy. We currently live in a surveillance state online that keeps getting worse while most of us continue to become more accepting of it.

Even online, we all deserve privacy. Not because we have something to hide, but because as the news cycle constantly shows us, big companies that track our every move and purchase are both awful at keeping that data safe and worse at knowingly renting it out to any other big company who wants it.

While I don’t think this means we should all drop off of every social network (well, maybe just Facebook), use carrier pigeons to share private information with others or quit the internet completely, I do think we should all have privacy plans in place, to whatever level of comfort makes sense.

We all know, even the luddites amongst us, that we are the products for several companies. Meaning, our information, preferences and data are bought and sold like commodities. Luckily though, there are companies who are happy to charge us a small fee instead of giving us free but monitored access to their products.

My own digital grab and go kit is a work in progress and has been for over a year.

My grab and go must haves:

Further down the rabbit hole:

Nuclear options:

This is easier said than done since Google makes some great products, like Google Docs (which I still use because I haven’t found a suitable alternative for remote collaboration with “suggestion” mode).

To counter this, I think that we should support companies that support protecting our data, even if it means paying for their services (meaning they won’t have to sell our data to be profitable).

You don’t have to be paranoid to care about your privacy online, it’s something that should be fundamental but has completely eroded over time. This is why I’m focused on privacy-centric software, like Fathom Analytics (and more to come) and why I keep taking steps to improve my digital grab and go kit.

Just like earthquakes and tsunamis, the pressure around digital security and privacy is building every single year. These huge companies continue to prove they do not care about us or our privacy. So it’s worth being prepared, even if it’s just to encapsulate the worry and stress inside a plan instead of bearing it solely inside your own mind.

I write a weekly newsletter called the Sunday Dispatches where I share articles about working and living online with 35k subscribers—