So, after almost 10 years of being on the Google Gmail service, I finally decided to call it quits. I have many reasons for finally closing my account, but to be honest it really has to do with de-cluttering and refocusing my time on things that matter.
I began contemplating the change when I started seeing more and more ads pop-up in my inbox. Then there were the many changes that were supposed to improve the Gmail experience, but really ended up making things more difficult. Some examples would be, hiding features that you use most or switching the placement of the log out button, forcing you to click on something you did not intend to click on. Many times it related to you giving something up or signing up for some new service like Google+.
One of the more recent changes that happened was the addition of separate tabs to group your emails. I believe one was ‘Promotion’, another was ‘Social’, etc. I didn’t learn until later, that in order for them to “help you organize” and “save time” they needed to comb through each email (subject, from address and content) in order to effectively place your email into the appropriate group. This also makes it possible for them to market ads specific to your interests. This was a little difficult for me to accept as I did not think it was such a good practice for a company to be going through my email in such a way.
Tack onto this, the big news that many of us have known about for years… the NSA PRISM Project and the issues around privacy, naming companies from Google to Apple as being part of their network of internet and tech companies they use to gather online user information without them knowing about it. This is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Once this was out, I knew it was time to start looking for a new way to communicate via email. I was not ready to allow Google to permit the NSA direct access to any and all of their user information at their every whim. I ended up closing my entire Google Account because of this. Since I didn’t take the time to close it our “properly” I also lost all my YouTube account data of 7 years as well. It had many of my favorite videos, artists, documentaries, musicians and even my own music videos from bands I’ve played in, to videos of me playing drums to help spread the word of what I do.
This all happened so quickly and only about two weeks ago, but I have since found a great email service that provides just the basics and protects users privacy the way it’s supposed to be. As for a YouTube replacement, I have been having trouble finding the right video service to upload my music to. The lack of decent choices with a variety of videos to choose from has left me with my hands tied and because of this I tried signing up for another YouTube account. Everything was going great until I started setting up my Channel. That is where I was told I would also get a Google+ account with my Channel set-up. This is something I did not want since learning that Google is also now sharing Google+ account photos with their advertisers and allowing them to user their customers images without their consent.
Since trying to remove Google+ from my YouTube account seemed near impossible since they tie the two together, I deleted that account and opened a new Google account, not a YouTube account. I found a video online that shows you how to open a Google Account, set-up your YouTube channel and go back and remove Google+ after the fact, within the Google Account window, not YouTube. Success!! Well, sort of. Now when I try logging back in with my new account and no Google+ I am unable to until the account undergoes a review process by Google. Verifying with my mobile number no longer works because they say it’s been used too many times. Really?! This all seemed very shady to me, so I decided to try out Vimeo. Upon trying to sign up unsuccessfully, I clicked on their terms and conditions to see if there was something I was missing. When I did this, I received the message “You have been temporarily blocked from Vimeo”. Apparently a ban that will be lifted after an “appropriate” period of time. WTF?
My main reason in writing this is to see if anyone else out there is trying to take their lives back and keep these large internet and tech companies (Apple, Verizon, Google, Facebook) from continuously invading their privacy and collecting information on them bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, all in the name of improving your life and saving you time and having nothing to do with innovation. Just look at things like Google Glass and now the new iPhone with fingerprint scanning technology. Smartphones are meant to capture as much data about their users than they are meant to be functional. I know it’s a scary thought, but it’s something to think about and maybe do a little research on. I find it strange that I can’t just have a Smartphone to use for photos, calling friends and family and texting. All large wireless providers force you to buy a data plan on some level. What for? Tracking.
Many things are amazing about technology, but I also think there are many things that are frustrating, especially when there is not enough transparency behind what things are being changed “for the better”, while you actually end up losing another piece of yourself to the ubiquitous NSA data cloud. It’s hear folks. It’s time to learn what you can do to protect yourself.