Try­ing to steer clear of me­dia com­pa­nies which steal my in­for­ma­tion, cen­sor my speech

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - By Randy Moll

If you al­ready had Fourth Amend­ment con­cerns about gov­ern­ment ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered about you and stored by In­ter­net giants like Google, Face­book and Twit­ter, you might be even more con­cerned to know that the Cloud Act, passed to­gether with the most re­cent spend­ing bill in Congress, makes it pos­si­ble for for­eign gov­ern­ments to ob­tain your data as well.

And just how much data is col­lected and stored by such com­pa­nies? If you think your in­for­ma­tion is not be­ing col­lected, just search for an item you might wish to pur­chase and see how many ads for that ex­act prod­uct and sim­i­lar prod­ucts show up on your so­cial me­dia pages and web searches.

Or, go to Google dash­board and enter your Google ac­count pass­word. Un­less you have pre­vi­ously turned off numer­ous Google fea­tures, you will find a de­tailed map with dates, places and lo­ca­tions you have vis­ited with your cell­phone in hand or pocket. You can see all your In­ter­net searches, how many emails you have sent and re­ceived, your user­names and pass­words to other sites and the list goes on. Es­sen­tially, Google and all those who use Google’s ser­vices to mar­ket prod­ucts know an un­be­liev­ably lot about you, where you live, shop, travel, your in­ter­ests, hob­bies, friends, spend­ing habits, etc.

Of course, so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies like Face­book and Twit­ter gather all the same kinds of in­for­ma­tion from you. Even if you re­strict who can see your con­tent and view your posts, the so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies have the in­for­ma­tion and ap­par­ently some­times leak or sell it to oth­ers.

Of even greater con­cern to me is that some of th­ese same com­pa­nies have started to cen­sor free speech and re­move posts and videos which hold to Bi­b­li­cal moral stan­dards or to Con­sti­tu­tional lim­its on gov­ern­ment.

While not en­cour­ag­ing vi­o­lence or hate to­ward any­one, I do be­lieve I have the right to ex­press Bi­b­li­cal teach­ing, even when it flies in the face of new so­cial norms be­ing forced upon us. And, in re­gard to po­lit­i­cal is­sues, I’m not ready to let the gov­ern­ment or big busi­ness dic­tate what I may and may not pub­licly ex­press. And it be­comes es­pe­cially dis­turb­ing when gov­ern­ment or busi­ness seeks to pre­vent me or any­one else from ex­press­ing moral or po­lit­i­cal views which were once the norm be­cause peo­ple still ac­cepted the author­ity of the Bi­ble in re­gard to re­li­gious and moral teach­ing and still read and held to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion as the law of the land.

Some are call­ing for gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion to keep such large me­dia com­pa­nies from cen­sor­ing speech or pro­mot­ing their own agen­das, but I don’t’ re­ally want the gov­ern­ment to de­ter­mine which speech is pro­tected and which is not. I’d rather just choose where I do busi­ness and what ser­vices I use and don’t use.

Be­cause Google, Face­book, Twit­ter, etc. have started cen­sor­ing re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal speech and clearly have a moral and po­lit­i­cal agenda of their own, I’ve started the process of rid­ding my­self of th­ese com­pa­nies by chang­ing web browsers, re­mov­ing apps and soft­ware and clos­ing ac­counts where I can and us­ing oth­ers as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.

And, no, the process is not so sim­ple as it sounds. So much In­ter­net use is in some way con­nected to th­ese giants. It’s not enough to change browsers and search en­gines, it takes dili­gent ef­forts to also re­move and re­place the use of their apps and fea­tures in other web browsers and search en­gines. And, it will de­mand the re­mov­ing of pho­tos and other stored in­for­ma­tion — some of which was up­loaded with­out my knowl­edge be­cause I failed to shut off this or that ser­vice on my phone or com­puter. And, it seems, even when I shut off many of th­ese fea­tures, at least some of them seem to be back on again when I re­turn.

In­stead of look­ing for news items via so­cial me­dia sites like Face­book and Twit­ter where one must wade through 10 tons of worth­less gib­ber­ish to maybe find that one rel­e­vant news item, I started spend­ing my time go­ing straight to the sources I trust for the news — and, no, it’s not the big me­dia giants which ob­vi­ously have their own po­lit­i­cal agenda. And I’ve found this to be much more pro­duc­tive.

In­stead of spend­ing as much time try­ing to pro­mote cer­tain ar­ti­cles via so­cial me­dia, I’m try­ing to gather and pub­lish more ar­ti­cles and worth­while items for read­ers, hop­ing that a bet­ter web prod­uct will draw more read­ers than the of­ten mean­ing­less likes and shares via so­cial me­dia.

I’ve set up a new email client to get my per­sonal email with­out it pass­ing through Google servers and hope to even­tu­ally close my Google ac­count al­to­gether. Rather than com­mu­ni­cat­ing via so­cial me­dia, I’m work­ing on dif­fer­ent ways to stay in touch with my kids and might hap­pily have to just go back to tra­di­tional phone calls and let­ters. I don’t know if I can get them to join me in com­mu­ni­cat­ing the old way and doubt I can get them to use an en­cryp­tion key and com­mu­ni­cate via pri­vately en­crypted email, but it’s an op­tion. Of course, phone calls and U.S. mail are also tracked but, to my knowl­edge, let­ters are not opened and read. Only the to and from is recorded. And, more im­por­tantly, my let­ters and phone calls are not cen­sored by some gi­ant me­dia com­pa­nies with im­moral and po­lit­i­cal agen­das of their own.

I don’t sup­pose my ef­forts to avoid us­ing such In­ter­net giants will have much ef­fect in stop­ping their cen­sor­ship ac­tiv­i­ties — at least not un­less a large num­ber of users be­gin re­think­ing their use of com­pa­nies which har­vest pri­vate in­for­ma­tion and then try to con­trol moral and po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion — but I feel bet­ter not let­ting them har­vest my per­sonal and pri­vate in­for­ma­tion for their own less-than-hon­or­able pur­poses.

Randy Moll is the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the West­side Ea­gle Ob­server. He may be con­tacted by email at rmoll@nwadg.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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