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1115 East Main Street
Rochester, NY, 14609
United States

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Going Without

Chad W. Edmonds

Recently Gutsy Nomad has deactivated its Facebook and Google accounts; no more @gutsynomad facebook web address or access to a personalized YouTube; no more intense tracking analytics made possible by Facebook Pixel or Google AdSense. In fact our founder has challenged himself to go offline in as many ways as possible; erasing Amazon accounts, deleting Apple accounts and disabling as many unused accounts as can be remembered.

The question often asked when explaining this challenge is simple; why?

The answer is also very simple; we don't need as many accounts as we have access to. If you can't recall having an account with a website, but, through an email campaign perhaps, discover you do have an account, should you keep the account? We argue, close it.

There is an element of privacy in closing accounts; lessening your so-called "digital footprint". Though privacy is a concern for some, in reality, closing accounts and getting out of the social media verse is more about control, and in some cases, sanity. Most people want control of their lives, of their stuff, of their time, etc.; As it turns out we've not much control over anything online, let alone our own online experience. Each company we commonly use for access (Google, Facebook, etc.) have their own mathematical algorithms for figuring out what we enjoy, what keeps us happy, based on a myriad of inputs, including audio (Android, iOS, internet connected devices), text, search queries, app use, etc.. App use extends beyond the company's own application; often their app will be monitoring everything it can about the phone itself, which is plenty, with the app commonly asking for access to everything the phone has to offer, including phone calls and text messages, and us granting an app access to not only software and voice, but also, all of the sensors inside our hand held screens. Mind you, the apps that ask for such all-inclusive access, never have a secondary option, allowing you to use the app with less access; the only other option is not using the app.

"Driving information can be accessed online or on apps allowing customers to monitor their driving patterns and make needed adjustments to improve their chances for better discounts." -, Feb 2017

We are advocates for technology, we also understand harm that is potential. The aforementioned access an app requests (with the only two options being, grant access, don't use the app), and is granted, is just one part of a larger issue: information gathering. Most of the time we willingly share information,  but information is valuable, so much so that companies spend quite the penny to collect such data. What are some implications of this? Targeted advertising? Better voice assistance? Let's switch industries, auto insurance is a good example. If you share data from your vehicle with a vehicle insurance company, it seems possible they could share your driving history with police. Let's apply logic to our "artificial intelligence" buddies, Hey Siri, Hey Google, Hey Alexa, Hey Cortana, etc.; it's true that a device with an AI enabled is constantly listening for the "Hey [NAME]" command, and if the device's microphone is constantly listening, therefore turned on, isn't it possible that more audio information could be gathered and processed on Apple's, Google's, Amazon's and Microsoft's servers?

We mentioned we are advocates of technology, and truly, we are. We know education is the key to understanding how our devices work, what information is being gathered from the devices, and education is the key to deciding wether we want to grant access to such information and use the specific service. There are many services offered that are monumentally helpful; Google Translate and Open Street Maps come to mind as insanely helpful in a traveler's life. We implore you to educate yourself about the devices and services you're using; learn more about alternatives. How much do you value your hand held device? Are there alternatives that might work better for you? Could you learn to use different apps on your device that are similar in function to the megacorp app you (potentially) have installed now? Just a tad of food for thought.