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re: so who/what is swiftmandolin?
september 2, 2020
a reply to swiftmandolin's post
random before-post missives
I'm trying out replying like you would reply on gopher (although I'm not sure this is the best way to do it ) so we'll see how this goes. Also, I think I'm going to abandon hosting my blog anywhere else and just focus on a gemlog, because while markdown works on everything it doesn't seem to work *well* for anything. Once I roll my own blog utility for just gemini then maybe I'll even try to get it on spacewalk considering that I'm posting here way more than I originally thought I would. As a final aside, I switched my style of writing. I'm gonna stick with this because having longer passages of text be all lowercase just gets hard to read sometimes, but my mastodon posts and shorter stuff like that will still be all lowercase because I like the look better for short stuff.
creating a pseudonym (aka don't make the same mistakes i made)
…finding unique usernames on the internet is getting increasingly difficult…
— someone, somewhere
I originally derived "nytpu" from my name via a **super-secret method** because I wanted something that was short and relatively memorable while being random enough to be available on most platforms. It seems I was successful at this, although it wasn't available on twitter for some miraculous reason, not that I really use twitter regularly anyways. The point I'm trying to make here is that nytpu wasn't originally meant to be a pseudonym that I actively try to keep separate from my real identity, and that means I'm left with some lingering connections to my identity that I have to work around, whereas a pseudonym like swiftmandolin's was created with the explicit purpose of being pseudonymous, and allows more freedoms because of that.
the tug-of-war of privacy
Keeping your privacy isn't an absolute, all-or-nothing, venture.
— r/privacy FAQ
The biggest thing about being private is you have to decide the level of privacy you want, and how far you're willing to go to reach that level of privacy. If you want to maximise your privacy you should just lock yourself in a Kaczynski cabin in northern Canada and never touch a computer or interact with anyone else. At the opposite end is having wifi-connected cameras and amazon echos and/or google homes in every room of your home. If you want to be maximally private but still use the internet you can get pretty extreme, but the problem is even if you use that no one else except people currently being targeted by nation-states use that, so you are left with a near-perfectly secure and private communications network with no one to use it with. With a more commonplace but anecdotal experience, I have the option of either: 1) dropping out of school, or 2) using zoom, so I use zoom and make sure to use good SELinux policies and I only use zoom for what I'm required for. Another example is discord, I would not have any contact with my friends if I didn't use it, so I use it just for that, and don't connect it to my identity, although if you were really looking then you could probably tell just via who I chat with.
These tradeoffs are why imperfect, but still secure services like signal are so popular, because they have better privacy, but you don't have to deal with as many of these usability tradeoffs so you can get your less tech-literate family and friends to use it, *and* it works with existing networks like SMS so you can still contact people you were contacting before. To concisely sum up these examples, with privacy you should aim for "good enough" rather than "perfect"
my personal privacy
In my opinion, we should begin in total privacy and choose to open what we want instead of having to "reclaim" our privacy. But, c'est la vie.
Instead of writing a long paragraph I'm just going to enumerate things I do for privacy, and there's some security thrown in too because the two sort-of go hand-in-hand:
- Use Linux instead of Windows or MacOS <del>X</del> (I'd do this anyway even if it didn't have a privacy benefit)
- Don't use centralized social media… ok I do still use reddit but I don't use facebook and only use twitter to follow 2 people
- Don't use google except where I have to for school, and then I use it sandboxed in a different browser
- Using a VPN
- Sign emails with PGP, although I can't use encryption because I don't know a *single* other person with pgp that I could encrypt with.
- Using Signal and convincing family to use it
- Using a Pi Hole + local Privoxy + strong adblocker
- Using a degoogled & rooted phone (this gives more user freedom too!)
- Good email hosting that lets you use a custom domain
- Try to secure & lock down browser
Stuff that I know I should fix but don't:
- Using discord — I basically have to if I want to contact most of my irl friends
- Using a chromium-based browser (qutebrowser) — I just can't bring myself to change it, I love qutebrowser so much
- Logging most of the movies I watch on letterboxd — I don't really know why I do this, but I'm just obsessed with having a log of all the movies I watch. If anyone knows a local program or something self-hosted that does this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Using DuckDuckGo — It isn't perfect for privacy, but no other search engine gives me useful results for all the weird and obscure stuff I look up. Even DDG doesn't give good results for stuff sometimes and I have to pull up google through tor.
- Not using my VPN enough — sometimes I turn it off just because I need the fastest download speeds I can get when downloading stuff.
- Tying my name to nytpu — I accidentally did this early on so now I just said screw it, it's not even my real name anyways even though people use it irl
- Tying my location to nytpu — I managed to reveal it slowly where I revealed bits and pieces until I just said I don't care anymore (just look at my photography page on gemini: Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Great Sand Dunes? It's not hard to figure out). There are presumably quite a few Alexs who live in Colorado, so I'm not particularly worried about this either.
I couldn't think of a good quote about conclusions so now I'm quoting myself
In the end, I believe that privacy is a human right, and the fact that you have to do this kind of shit to get even a façade of privacy is literally disgusting. I'm gonna cut myself off here, but somehow have even more to say about this, and even just this post got really out of hand, I originally intended it to be a quick reply. I've never really written anything about privacy before despite me being so privacy oriented, so I just had a lot that I wanted to get out. I didn't even get into free speech stuff yet! Maybe in a future post…
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