Should you trust Google with your data?

Also in today's open source roundup: Life without a GUI in Linux, and a screenshot tour of Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon

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Should you trust Google with your data?

Google’s products and services have proven to be quite popular among millions of users around the world. But some users have also declined to trust their data to Google, and have opted for privacy oriented alternatives.

And so the debate about Google continues as each user tries to answer the very personal question: Should I trust Google with my data?

A writer at Android Central recently posted an article that explained why he definitely trusts Google with his data:

I’m more inclined to trust the company that shows me what it’s doing. That shows me which parts of my data it’s using, and tell me how it’s using it, how I can control whether I want to share it in the first place. (Of course that extends to trusting that I’m actually being shown everything. But, dammit, either you’re willing to go outside and risk crossing the street, or you cower at home under the covers.)

Don’t just say “trust me” over and over. Give me reason to trust you.

Google uses a lot of my data. Hell, Google uses all of my data. To serve me. To serve itself. And, collectively, to serve us all. But what’s more is that it shows me (OK, I trust that it’s showing me) every little thing I’m doing. It’s all right here. It’s easy to read, easy to follow. It’s transparent as hell. And a little creepy, yes. But that last part’s my fault.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More at Android Central

The article on Android Central spawned a response post on Medium by a reader who did not trust Google with his data:

There are a thousand different things that could happen where you would regret having your entire life tracked by a single entity. As long as you’re in the system and have “track everything” turned on, this is a real risk and there is simply no way to mitigate it.

This didn’t used to be the case, but I think that, especially within the last year or two, alternative privacy-oriented solutions for every one of Google’s core services (search, mail, maps, etc.) have improved usability to be competitive with Google. If you can keep the usability & user experience and regain your privacy, why wouldn’t you?

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not paranoid. I don’t think the CIA or the NSA or any other 3-letter agency is after me — but I do care about my privacy. You might not care that Google shows you car ads if it knows you’re buying a car, but it is indicative of a number of bigger problems.

…if a free, user-friendly, privacy-conscious alternative exists for certain services, what possible reason could we have not to give it a try? I am not proposing that you should delete your Google account and avoid them at all possible costs. Google provides excellent services that are easy to use — but they do come at a cost and we shouldn’t forget that.

More at Medium

The article on Medium resulted in a thread on the Android subreddit and users there shared their thoughts about trusting Google with their data:

Capast: “Life is too short to live it while being paranoid and scared. That’s the equivalent of someone avoiding travelling because it’s too dangerous, or anyway not as safe as staying home all day. I personally don’t want to live like that.

At the end of the day, Google provides useful services, for realistically very little in return. In theory they might be “tracking” me, but there is a big difference between algorithms using my data, and humans sniffing through them. The same way that there is a world of difference between “Google is selling your data to advertisers” vs Google does targeted advertising.

Sure, I will be “fine” if I split my email out of Google. Or if I don’t keep my photos on Google Photos. But then my appointment next weekend won’t show up on my calendar automatically, or even directly on Google Maps. And if I want to lookup that awesome photo from 1–2 years ago, it will be nowhere as straightforward. Instead I will be stuck hunting down the photo in a huge folder, and that’s assuming I even got the folder layout right to begin with, when I first manually transferred the photos out of my phone to my external HDD.

Ultimately, I save time by using their services that I can spend on stuff that really matters, instead of worrying about hypotheticals and “slippery slope” arguments.”

Janne-bananne: “…as a software engineer myself, I can just build uglier, less polished versions of Google’s services for myself.

They’ll be better suited to what I want to do, have the same features, and avoid all the tracking.”

Globalcitizen91: “No company or services will give you anything for free. The choice we have is give a bit of data to each company or give most of it to one.”

Guohuade: “This is true, strictly speaking, but how we pay for services is also different. For some services, like Google, we pay through giving up our privacy. ”

Luciddr34m3r: “My argument has always been that the big guys like Google, Facebook, and the spooky government will have ways to track my user behavior unless I go through some fairly extreme measures to prevent it (which I am unwilling to do). If I don’t turn on these services, the only person not benefiting from these features is me.

If Google turned evil, they would just flip on all these tracking options without your knowledge. There isn’t very much you can do about it.”

StackCorruption: “For myself I found a good balance by switching to Google apps for work. I pay a small amount and in return no ads show up. My original reason was using my own domain for email, but the ad free experience is a nice bonus.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this also bought me some other privacy benefits, but I haven’t dug into the paperwork yet.”

Xelrd: “…machine learning algorithms are much more capable than humans in identifying features and behavioral tendencies from scattered information. These algorithms can predict your desires, fears, political views and vices in no time compared to a team of humans who would potentially have to go through your data for months. Think about Google surveys, for example, are they really interested in the data you knowingly provide or rather how it matches with the data they secretly collect?”

Digitil: “You can pay for a freemium product/service that uses open source software, accepts donations, and still wind up giving up your privacy.”

Pilosophermk: “Now change Google with any of the alternatives you mentioned and you will see that the same goes for all of them, and the new ones that will come in the future.

Your argument literally works for every service that exist and will come in the future. And you are in conflict with yourself because same goes for alternatives.”

Guohade: “This is only partially true. We can still use open source applications, and applications that are recommended by privacy and security experts. If the source code is there, we can see for ourselves (or the experts can, if you’re not a programmer) that, for example, encryption happens before it leaves our device.

However, it is a valid point, and I have already given my response in the post: at the very least, we can avoid a single point of failure by spreading use across multiple services. And in the future, if any of them become compromised, it’s easy enough to swap it out again because we will not be complacent from using a single service for everything.”

More at Reddit

The Linux terminal: Life without a GUI

The Linux terminal is a powerful tool that can let you do many of the same things as a GUI. A writer at Network World recently switched to the terminal to see how life would be without a GUI. He shared his favorite Linux shell apps in a slideshow.

Bryan Lunduke reports for Network World:

Ever consider the idea of living entirely in a Linux terminal? No graphical desktop. No modern GUI software. Just text—and nothing but text—inside a Linux shell. It may not be easy, but it’s absolutely doable. I recently tried living completely in a Linux shell for 30 days. What follows are my favorite shell applications for handling some of the most common bits of computer functionality (web browsing, word processing, etc.). With a few obvious holes. Because being text-only is hard.

For emailing in a terminal, we are spoiled for choice. Many people recommend mutt and notmuch. Both of those are powerful and excellent, but I prefer alpine. Why? Not only does it work well, but it’s also much more of a familiar interface if you are used to GUI email software like Thunderbird.

I have one word for you: w3m. Well, I suppose that’s not even really a word. But w3m is definitely my terminal web browser of choice. It tenders things fairly well and is powerful enough to even let you post to sites such as Google Plus (albeit, not in a terribly fun way). Lynx may be the de facto text-based web browser, but w3m is my favorite.

For editing simple text files, I have one application that I straight-up love. No, not emacs. Also, definitely not vim. For editing of a text file or jotting down some notes, I like nano. Yes, nano. It’s simple, easy to learn and pleasant to use. Are there pieces of software with more features? Sure. But nano is just delightful.

More at Network World

Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon screenshot tour

Linux Mint 18 has been out for a little while now, and many users are interested in checking it out. DarkDuck has a screenshot tour of the Cinnamon version of Linux Mint 18 that will walk you through some of its applications.

DarkDuck reports:

The release of Linux Mint 18 was very interesting from many aspects. The most interesting for me was the fact that it is the 1st release of Mint based on LTS version of Ubuntu after skipping several non-LTS versions

If you remember, up to Linux Mint 16, each new version was based on consecutive version of Ubuntu, being it LTS or non-LTS version. But since version 17 only Ubuntu LTS editions are used by the Mint team to build their own operating system. Mint 17 was based on Ubuntu 14.04 and Mint 18 is based on Ubuntu 16.04.

The full-blown review is still ahead. For now, let’s do a quick whistle-blow tour through the Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon system with some applications you can find out of the box.

More at Linux Notes

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