Traversing a path to freedom

In the light of on coming onslaught of government surveillance (or otherwise), how does one prepare to live life in freedom — freedom from your privacy being infringed upon? Essentially, how to live life on your own terms and how to free yourself from depending on the government for your needs?

Here are some thoughts on activities in daily life, and their freedom respecting alternatives:

  • Paying people: cash or cryptocurrency
  • Electricity: install solar panels
  • Food: If possible, grow your own. You cannot know what pesticides and agro-chemicals you are consuming when you purchase from the market.
  • Internet: No ISP is better than another. Satellite internet might be slower, but probably better suited for privacy. Use cryptography to beat surveillance. Use ssh tunnels, VPNs, the Tor network etc.
  • Desktop Operating System: GNU/Linux, hell yeah! Fedora Linux is best (avoid Ubuntu)
  • Laptop: Any laptop that doesn’t have proprietary firmware is good. I use Thinkpad, but this is not the best choice.
  • Mobile Operating System: This is tricky. Android relies on Google Play Services, and is hence non-free at its core. After careful deliberation, I find Jolla’s Sailfish OS as the best freedom respecting mobile platform. I use Windows Phone (Lumia 1520) and Sailfish 2.0 (Intex Aquafish).
  • Mobile phone: A prepaid SIM, perhaps that came out from a vending machine, is best (this works in USA). In some countries, such a choice is not possible (India). Pay phones (with a coin drop slot) are perhaps the only option. Where legal, satellite phones (illegal in India) might give you ultimate freedom from surveillance. Do read Stallman’s views on this issue.
  • Maps: Good support for offline maps on mobile devices is in the works. Soon, OpenStreetMap would suffice for all user needs. With OpenStreetMap, you can own the data and you can run every service (search, geocoding, routing etc.) offline. Commercial equivalents will remain easy to use, but will aggressively collect your location data.
  • Mail: Probably best to setup your own server. I need to figure out strategies against failures, but it should be doable. Open protocols like IMAP, SMTP support end to end encryption, and it should be secure from surveillance.
  • Browser: Firefox preferably, otherwise Chromium if you can’t live without it.
  • Chat: IRC rocks. One can setup IRC bridge to use Slack through an IRC interface, which can help you avoid the proprietary Slack client. On the phone, I see no alternative of Whatsapp (which is non-free). Telegram is no better. Best to avoid these for now. On the desktop, I use XMPP clients like Pidgin / Empathy.
  • Travel: If you can pay anonymously and travel legally without an ID, that is the best. Indian Railways makes it possible. Traveling in your own vehicle is not the best either, since your number plate is prone to tracking and surveillance.
  • Social media: Avoid putting up photographs on social media as much as possible. Facebook and government agencies are known to be building massive facial recognition databases.

For insights into my inspirations, check out the lifestyle FAQs of Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation.

So, all good, Ishan. How much of this do you follow yourself? Not much, unfortunately. But knowing what is good for you is better than ignorance. And trying to achieve what is good for you is worth it.

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