How I Got Into Privacy

Privacy for me came more as a necessity than a choice.

When you give people a choice, there’s a 90% chance that they’ll slack on the options.That’s why most of the governments and corporations in the world are exploiting privacy. People have become lazy. People stop thinking about what they’re signing up for. People begin to trust blindly. Because they don’t consider the options. They follow the herds, like sheep.

Have you ever come across a slaughterhouse? There’s a couple of goats munching on greens outside, focused solely on the delicious meals before them. And every hour or so, the butcher will come out, pick one goat and take him inside. Or even worse, if the goats happen to be from the Asia, the butcher will slaughter them right on the pavement, in front of the other goats. What do the rest of the goats do? They keep munching, grinding their jaws, completely oblivious to their dying mate and his cries for help.

This is the current situation of privacy across the globe.

I got my first laptop in 2011. It was an HP Pavilion DM4 1600us. It came with Windows 7 Home Premium preinstalled. I also got a 512kbps internet connection with a well-known ISP who gave their own routers and landline phones as a great package deal. Except, it wasn’t.

At the time, I’d just bought a new phone. The Nokia X2-00. It’s still lying on my table, quite dead now. It lasted longer than my laptop; being in daily use until late 2017.

My first browser was Internet Explorer. But I quickly moved on to Firefox, then later, Comodo Dragon.

This entire setup – the laptop, the OS, the ISP and their proprietary router – was a privacy disaster. That’s the summary. I endured it till 2016, when I made some massive changes and got an entirely new setup.

I want to share some highlights of my journey from 2011 – 2016 with my Windows laptop and 512kbps terrible ISP.

In 2011, I had just moved to one of the world’s most oppressive countries on the planet. I knew the ISP was tracking my internet usage through their proprietary router. But even if I’d had my own router, they’d still have tracked me; with them being the ISP.

Here’s a rough timeline from 2011 – 2016.

2011:-

  1. Installed adblock plus, ghostery, Web Of Trust extensions on Firefox
  2. Searched for a free browser VPN extension. At the time, I thought this would hide my traffic from my ISP, as well as hide my real IP from any websites that I visited
  3. Installed Splashtop OS and tested it
  4. Downloaded Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
  5. Installed Virtualbox. Installed Ubuntu and Linux Mint to check them out
  6. Created my first private online identity. Accounts on Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, Google+, Yahoo, YouTube. Posted my first YouTube video before deleting it a few days later
  7. Read HuffingtonPost, ArsTechnica News daily

2012:-

  1. Installed Comodo Icedragon and Comodo Dragon and made them my primary browsers
  2. Installed Comodo Internet Security
  3. Created my first universal pseudo-identity on Gmail, Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, MySpace. Was quite popular

2013:-

  1. Created my 3rd online persona on a rather isolated social network
  2. Started reading news of the Snowden leaks. Didn’t pay much attention
  3. Browsed several tech websites religiously

2014:-

  1. Started paying attention to the Snowden leaks. Did more research and downloaded as many leaked documents as I could find
  2. Deleted my first universal pseudo-identity and cleared up all associations with it
  3. Created my 4th online persona
  4. Browsed MalwareTips daily; installed several softwares with giveaway keys

2015:-

  1. Created multiple online personas
  2. Joined Reddit, BleepingComputer, Imgur, Yandex etc
  3. Joined beta of Protonmail and Tutanota
  4. Joined MeWe.com
  5. Started using the Tor Browser
  6. Installed GlassWire firewall, learned to block connections from Windows Firewall

2016:-

  1. Watched my laptop die
  2. Switched ISP’s
  3. Got my new netbook
  4. Got my new smartphone
  5. Upgraded the netbook from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Was still slow and laggy
  6. Installed Manjaro as my first Linux distro on my netbook
  7. Installed Elementary OS
  8. Installed Solus OS
  9. Installed Fedora
  10. Tried to install Qubes, Whonix, Debian, Subgraph, Sabayon, Lubuntu and failed
  11. Joined the Fediverse. Created my first account on Quitter, LoadAverage, Shitposter Club, JoinDiaspora and Hubzilla
  12. Quit Reddit, Imgur, MeWe etc
  13. Stopped visiting a load of websites such as HuffPost, Arstechnica, BleepingComputer and so on
  14. Deleted my first private online identity and all associated accounts
  15. Installed the latest update of Samsung Marshmallow via adb.

Phew! That’s a long journey in discovering the ultimate privacy threat model that I could work on.

There have been a lot of changes and improvements since 2017. I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Privacy is a learning curve. You have to start somewhere and work your way into the dark. Looking back at how far I’ve come, it required persistence. And the worst part of all that is, I had to go on a hunt to find what I was looking for. It wasn’t readily available. It took several months and years of patience to get things working. And it’s not perfect yet. There’s still a lot to be done. But finally, I feel free like a bird. I’m not bound by any corporate or government surveillance system.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg, Dear Sunder Pichai, Dear Twitter, Dear Microsoft, Dear Google, Dear Facebook, Dear NSA, Dear GCHQ, Dear 5 eyes, 9 eyes, 14 eyes, Dear Politicians, Dear Government Surveillance Agencies, and to everyone who is involved in the spying, surveillance and oppression of innocent citizens across the globe, my middle fingers have got something to say to you: