For a while now I’ve been trying to find ways to convey the risks of social media and the importance of privacy to my non-tech savvy family members, in a previous entry I went over getting away from WhatsApp (Facebook really) and using element connected to my own self hosted synapse server.

The Social Dilemma

Two weeks ago I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, which I really enjoyed. To elaborate further these are my main take aways:

  • The people featured in the documentary explain things is easy to follow for non – tech oriented people, because, let’s be honest, sometimes people from technical backgrounds tend to make assumptions or loose patience while explaining (I know I have)
  • Some of the creators of some social media platforms or multiple of their functionalities (such as the like button for Facebook) were involved in the creation of this documentary and even willing to admit that they didn’t think of the negative uses of said functionalities! A couple examples that come to mind are people doing everything (varying degrees of ridiculousness) to go up in this like/views based system on YouTube or live streaming horrible deeds on < insert your video streaming platform of choice here > to spread fear/hate
  • The fact that Center for Humane Technology (featured in the documentary) was started by the same people that created or helped in the creation of diverse social media platforms and the fact that people that work for social media platforms go to great lengths to get their own kids to stay away from their own creations should both be huge red flags for “us, normal users”.
  • The “Brain hacking” algorithms work on you even if you’re highly educated or know how they work

Ongoing efforts

After watching the documentary and recommending it to my folks back home (English is a bit hard for them so I’m thankful for Netflix translations), a search for similar resources began and a pleasant exchange with @humanetech (Mastodon account that represents Humane Tech Community ) turned up some very good sites like Social Cooling – Big Data’s unintended side effect which was nice but I began thinking:

“Hey, most of the resources are in English , it doesn’t make sense to have/share them if most of the vulnerable population isn’t highly educated and speaks the language (at least in my country), maybe translation of such resources is a good idea”

After deciding to be a little proactive I offered this thought to @humanetech which was received with enthusiasm and after being pointed to one of their forum’s threads I discovered someone had already thought about this and even volunteered to translate to Italian, at this point I thought I could help translating to Spanish, so I joined the forum and officially volunteered as tribute well, which began another thread dedicated to gathering resources for possible translation.

So that’s all it took to take some action to help a little bit, a couple of toots and some forum posts, I really hope some translation effort happens, interest seems to be there as at the time of writing there are other people who volunteered to translate to Portuguese, German and Russian (this last one 2 hours before this entry was live).

If my thoughts resonate with you, you can join the forum, volunteer to translate or overall reach out to exchange ideas either on mastodon or on Humane Tech Community forum

Day 19 of

A brief summary: I’ve been looking into privacy friendly alternatives to software most of us use or used in our everyday lives. To be more precise, an alternative to WhatsApp for communication within my family. Long story short: I lost this one…

A while back I switched from WhatsApp to Signal and kind of forced my family to switch as well, however:

Signal requires a phone number and depends on centralized servers. I know there are ways to have your own server but as far as I know the process can be difficult, there is no one-to-one video calls on desktop (yet) and there is no support for federation out of the box (If you, the reader, have more info on this point I’d love to know since I have only researched on the surface of the topic)

My current solution is a synapse installation and element client app on desktop, iOS and android device, which seems to meet all the requirements I had plus the installation process is fast and easy on a yunohost server

On the technical side of things everything is fine and works, we are able to communicate securely through a home server I own and manage but the thing is: My family only uses element to communicate with me and they keep relying on WhatsApp to communicate between them and others. It is a bit frustrating but at least our video calls are private so there is a silver lining here.

The arguments to use it have been many: “there are no customizable stickers”, “What do you have to hide? don’t be so paranoid”, “I don’t care if I am spied on, I’m not that interesting”, “all my friends are on WhatsApp and I like to have a single app for all my conversations”

I have been trying to explain the risks of thinking like this and after being frustrated for a while I realized that most people concerned with privacy have an electronic or computer engineering (or similar) backgrounds, we sometimes are a bit big-headed (at least I have been at times) and forget how it is to have no understanding of how apps and communication work.

I’d like to use this entry post to encourage people to be more understanding and patient while trying to explain privacy risks or persuading non-tech oriented people, after all, even when we’re right, no one likes an arrogant smart-ass and forcing everyone to be more privacy oriented is impossible.

Let’s keep it up, do and take what you can.

Day 17 of