2019-09-23-upgrading-providers.md (7077B) - raw


      1 <!-- title: Upgrading to privacy-conscious providers -->
      2 <!-- slug: upgrading-providers -->
      3 <!-- categories: Cryptography, Decentralization, Privacy -->
      4 <!-- date: 2019-09-23T00:00:00Z -->
      5 <!-- lastmod: 2019-09-24T00:00:00Z -->
      6 
      7 I have been reading a lot about decentralization and not depending too much in
      8 one company in the past six months and I realized how much I relied on Google:
      9 my email, all my files, contacts, calendars, pictures... Most of my data was
     10 stored on their servers. This was inconvenient for three reasons: (1) if
     11 something was to happen to Google or my account, I would lose a lot of data, (2)
     12 Google doesn't use end-to-end encryption, which means that they (and anyone with
     13 access to their servers) can see all my files, emails, etc. and (3) Google
     14 already uses all this data (and other it collects) to better know my
     15 personality.
     16 
     17 Some people might think that the main three problems I have with Google aren't
     18 that important. In fact, I have used Google for many years because that was my
     19 opinion for a long time. However, the more I read about the issue, the more I
     20 realize they aren't minor problems. I realized that for me it is worth it to pay
     21 $12 or $24 a year in exchange for privacy. If you are still doubting, [this
     22 post][mw] might change your mind.
     23 
     24 ***
     25 
     26 Let's see what I needed out of my new providers/configuration:
     27 
     28 1. Control over my data: if something were to happen to my account, it shouldn't
     29   affect me too much.
     30 2. Encrypting my data: end-to-end encryption for my services, so there wasn't a
     31   need to "trust" the provider, as well as to avoid any problems in case the
     32   servers were compromised—which is not that uncommon.
     33 3. Privacy: the provider shouldn't be using my data in any way (which is mostly
     34   solved with end-to-end encryption).
     35 
     36 ### 1. Control over my data
     37 
     38 My first problem was easily solvable, I simply needed to back up everything that
     39 was on the cloud. That process was pretty easy using [Google's export tool][to].
     40 With a few clicks, everything was ready, and I only had to wait for Google to
     41 collect all the data and create the file. I'm not sure how much that took, I
     42 would say less than an hour, but definitely less than a day (it was a long ago,
     43 so I don't remember).
     44 
     45 Selecting all the different services I wanted to export from one page instead of
     46 having to go to each service's URL and then select export made the process so
     47 much smoother. I was surprised by how easy the export was, and all the data was
     48 in convenient files to import to other services: contacts in a VCF file,
     49 calendar in an iCal file... which makes a lot of sense, but not all services
     50 allow such an easy process to export everything and ready to use in a different
     51 service. Fortunately, that was the case, so my next problem was a lot easier to
     52 solve.
     53 
     54 ### 2. Encrypting my data
     55 
     56 In order to encrypt my content, I needed to find an alternative to a lot of
     57 services that Google was offering me (or use tools such as [Cryptomator][c],
     58 which was discarded because of problem number 3). And so the search
     59 began.
     60 
     61 #### Email
     62 
     63 There are a lot of encrypted mailboxes and there is also the option of
     64 self-hosting email. I wasn't interested in managing my own server just for my
     65 email, so I had to choose a provider. Many of the sources I checked recommended
     66 [Protonmail][pm] and [Tutanota][tn], among others. They both looked nice and
     67 offered a free tier, so I tried them. After some time, I finally decided to go
     68 with Tutanota because of how they approached their user community as well as
     69 other details (for instance, their app not using any of the Google Play
     70 Services), although it was a hard choice.
     71 
     72 #### File storage
     73 
     74 Most of my files in the cloud were old and not usually needed, they were just
     75 online because I used Google Drive as my home folder. The solution was easy: I
     76 backed them up on an offline external storage as well as on my computer and
     77 deleted them from the cloud.
     78 
     79 As for the few files I actually needed online (the ones I use both at home and
     80 at college), I now use a USB stick to have them wherever I go, as well as
     81 backing them up every once in a while. No need to have them online, and it is
     82 faster to plug in a USB stick than log in to Google Drive and download the files
     83 (which was what I was doing on all computers running GNU/Linux).
     84 
     85 There is one type of file I haven't replaced yet: anything that was shared is
     86 still on my Drive (even if other services offer it, for now, I am fine with
     87 using Google).
     88 
     89 #### Calendar and contacts
     90 
     91 I created an account in a Nextcloud instance for my calendar and contacts.
     92 Nextcloud is very intuitive and I like the user interface. There's the
     93 [DAVx⁵][dx] app that synchronizes them to my phone, so that was an easy choice.
     94 Having an account at a Nextcloud instance is also useful in case I want to
     95 upload files and it also allows me to sync my [Joplin][j] notes.
     96 
     97 #### Search
     98 
     99 I thought the search engine would be the hardest service to substitute, however,
    100 there are a lot of good alternatives. The one I went for is [DuckDuckGo][ddg]
    101 which works pretty well and also works if you are connected to the internet
    102 through the [Tor network][tor].
    103 
    104 #### Others
    105 
    106 I never had to substitute the web browser since I already used [Firefox][ff],
    107 and as for the photo hosting service, I just don't upload them online anymore
    108 and I use the [Simple Gallery][sg] app (you can install it for free from
    109 [F-Droid][fd]). I also substituted Android's custom ROM, but I will talk about
    110 that some other time.
    111 
    112 #### Temporarily not replaced
    113 
    114 I temporarily haven't replaced one service: Google Maps. Its accuracy is so good
    115 that it is hard to match. I have downloaded [OsmAnd][oa], but when searching for
    116 public transport routes, I still check Google Maps.
    117 
    118 ### 3. Privacy
    119 
    120 When looking for all the new services in order to get end-to-end encryption, I
    121 already looked at their policies in relation to privacy, so this problem was
    122 solved as well.
    123 
    124 ## Conclusion
    125 
    126 It took me some time to make all these changes, especially my phone's operative
    127 system and my email address—I still use the old one with a lot of people, I am
    128 progressively updating it. Some of the services are hard to replace and it takes
    129 time to get used to the new providers. However, if you are interested in getting
    130 privacy when sending personal emails or saving files online, it is worth the
    131 change.
    132 
    133 
    134 [mw]: <https://www.gnu.org/proprietary/malware-google.html> "Google's Software is Malware — GNU Project"
    135 [to]: <https://takeout.google.com/> "Takeout — Google"
    136 [c]: <https://cryptomator.org> "Cryptomator"
    137 [pm]: <https://protonmail.com> "Protonmail"
    138 [tn]: <https://tutanota.com> "Tutanota"
    139 [dx]: <https://www.davx5.com> "DAVx5"
    140 [j]: <https://joplinapp.org> "Joplin"
    141 [ddg]: <https://duckduckgo.com> "DuckDuckGo"
    142 [tor]: <https://www.torproject.org> "Tor project"
    143 [ff]: <https://www.mozilla.org/firefox/> "Firefox"
    144 [sg]: <https://www.simplemobiletools.com/gallery/> "Simple Gallery"
    145 [fd]: <https://f-droid.org/en/packages/com.simplemobiletools.gallery.pro/> "Simple Gallery — F-Droid"
    146 [oa]: <https://osmand.net/> "OsmAnd"