Self-hosting is the holy grail for privacy advocates. And I don’t mean having a VPS hosted for you somewhere; I mean having your server physically located on your own premises.
Messaging, including email, is particularly important when it comes to privacy. Now, there are three reasons I choose not to run my own email server:
- I have no desire to be a sysadmin, and these things can be fiddly to set up and subject to downtime.
- Due to the preponderance of spam, the big players have developed procedures and policies making it difficult for self-hosters to get their emails delivered.
- If my focus is privacy, well almost everyone else I will contact uses Google, Microsoft or Apple, meaning Big Tech will get my data anyway.
The third point is an important one to dwell upon, and is the reason why I continue to argue for privacy even in the midst of a pandemic. I can take all the defensive actions I like, but if my family and friends don’t change their practices, then I’m going to get diminishing returns.
In addition to the email example above, consider the following scenarios:
- Images — you have to be part of a social network to stop people being able to tag you, which is a bit of a dilemma if someone tags me in a photograph on Facebook or Instagram (where I don’t have an account)
- Location — when I travel, I’m often with family or friends so if they’re sharing their location, my location is also being shared.
- Tracking — when using shared computers it’s not difficult for Big Tech to associate accounts coming from the same residential IP address to make inferences .
This all might sound a bit tinfoil hat, but privacy is the reason we have curtains on our windows and why we don’t tell everyone what we’re doing all of the time.
I realise that we can’t turn the clock back, and goodness know privacy advocates have made some missteps along the way. But now we live in a world where both governments and Big Tech have a vested interest in the general public lacking what I’d call ‘herd immunity for privacy’.
So although it seems like somewhat of a futile task at times, I’ll continue to pragmatically protect my own privacy, and encourage those around me to do likewise.