Privacy concerns and lessons learned

It seems like just about everyone these days all of a sudden has a heightened sense of awareness for anything related to Internet privacy.  Some of the latest:

No doubt many of the concerns are completely valid.  After all, how would you expect anyone to react when so many expectations about what they do or how they do things gets flipped on its’ head, especially something that might be important but for whatever reason ends up being taken for granted, such as privacy, or clean air, water, clean food, all that good stuff.  If it gets ruined or tainted, it not only tastes bad, but causes you to spend time and energy to either work with as is or find an alternative.

Option 1: Work With As Is

As with water, you can do things to sanitize it such as running through a filter or boiling it.  With web privacy, there are likewise options such as for blocking ads, adding encrypted search, DIY or other tools.  However, since this adds additional time or cost to regularly maintain, it makes you question how much value you’re really getting out of the service in the first place, is it really worth it, not to mention that once it starts breaking down, repeated errors probably aren’t too far out of the question.  Maybe similar to when a car starts breaking down after 200k miles or so, and usually ends up being one thing or another every other month or two.  The fact that you’re even asking yourself the question means you probably already know the answer as well, but just aren’t quite yet sure what to do about it.

Option 2: Find an Alternative

The other option of course is to bail, get outta dodge, head for the hills, pack up and move on, get a reset, bury it with the only potential value being to use as fertilizer for growing something new.  If the change is too drastic, it might not seem to matter and you’re willing to try anything, but then of course you could end up in the same position you’re in or an even worse environment (the devil you know versus the one you don’t seems like a rationality often used).  So, while some adventure into the unknown can have its’ own curious attractiveness, it usually helps to be somewhat prepared, maybe call it more of a lesson learned.  With the water or food example, this could be your bottled water (while by no means always has the most stringent quality controls either) or for food this could be replacing your eating habits with something you have more control of, such as growing your own (greenhouses are more popular than ever) or trying to find fresh produce and goods from a local market.  Either way, the result being you’re taking more control over aspects that might have gotten a bit out of control.

With web privacy, to start with, here could be some of the lessons learned for a few of the more popular types of web applications:

For Storing/Sharing Content

If using from an ad based service, since you don’t own your content, this can translate immediately into no control.  Meaning while one day everything can be fine, the next maybe not so much or much worse.  The reason the control isn’t there, as Al Franken and so many others have pointed out, is that simply put, a business is in business to support their customers.  For an advertising based model, that means whomever are their advertisers/customers, or more importantly, whomever are their biggest, largest, otherwise known as strategic customers.  As a non-paying user, you have nowhere near the priority, hence radical unexpected changes and zero support.  For these types of services that you have no control over, it’s probably best to limit your exposure to them, becoming more or less benevolent to whatever they do, you’re really not expecting much else.

Lesson Learned: If you value your content and communications, use a solution where you’re the customer.  That way, there’s no confusion or purposes racing in opposite directions.  Instead, with users and customers being one and the same, the purpose of developing a quality product is aligned with customers looking for a quality solution.  Over time, you can grow that alignment through customers providing Organizing and storing content on your own of problems they’re having and likewise getting a solution whose purpose is to fix those problems.  With that environment, quality customer support is not just something good to do, but critical for the survival of your business, both for in the present with repeat business and good old fashioned referrals, as well as in the future for new feature/product directions.

While there are a range of potential solutions available, with Odysen you get a simple to use tool to organize a variety of content, including useful applications and a folder layout to organize your network however you feel is appropriate.

For Searching

Some people believe a more social search (SPYW) is beneficial, regardless of any additional privacy concerns.  The thing is, when people are searching on the web, the whole point is needing to search through a bit of the chaos for some order that could be presently missing in your environment.  This could be trying something new and learning how others have done it, maybe helping to either save a little time or looking to build on top of it.

With that in mind, searching through your own world of content defeats the whole purpose of searching in the first place.  The argument is made for higher quality based on the trusted sources in your network, however that doesn’t mean much whenever searching for any subject outside of your network.  Such as for a new style of cuisine, moving to a new town where you don’t know anyone yet (or not enough for any type of consensus), never mind the experience you get from learning about it on your own.

Lesson Learned: If searching for different perspectives, try using a search engine that focuses on having those perspectives, such as from DuckDuckGo or another search engine that doesn’t integrate your existing networks.

For Emails

The other heavily used application that may or may not be causing concerns is with your email provider.  As this can be a combination of both your content and search, through including ads from your search in your emails, it can be problematic especially when using the email system in a more professional work, organization or group environment.

Lesson Learned: As the problem stems from integration of the two, the solution is probably some form of disconnection.  This could be either using a more independent search engine or going further, a medium term solution, by setting up your own email viewing client (versus a browser), such as from Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook or others.  Longer term of course would be hosting your own, but even that environment you still need a viewing client (GUI, Graphical User Interface), so the medium term solution would be a good next step.


As with most things, change can be looked at in different ways.  Sometimes it can be good, such as when you’re more in control or are the one implementing the action of the change.  Other times probably not, when you’re not in control and your energies are focused on reactions, making it feel like you’re going backwards.   So, one way to have more time for the actions you’re in control of, is to simply get rid of or reduce the one’s you’re not, or at least be aware of the baggage they bring so at least when the unwelcome changes do happen, you’re at least somewhat prepared and have an appropriate expectation, your preventative damage control.

What do you think?  What other lessons have you learned or have questions about regarding all the recent privacy changes?

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Founder and CEO of Odysen, involved with different writing and music freelancing activities, and have previously worked for larger technology businesses in the US, Europe and Asia.