“Privacy” as it relates to technology is somewhat of a buzzword right now, and rightly so. Most of us will agree that our privacy online is becoming increasingly compromised, but seldom do we hear of anything we can do about it.
In recent years, many of us have become increasingly aware that we (the average consumer/user) is not programming technology, but instead technology is programming us….and it isn’t necessarily for our best interests. (More on this below)
For some time I have been looking ways to enhance my own online privacy, while still being able to enjoy and use the tools of the internet effectively. One of the most effective tools I have found to be able to accomplish that is switching my internet browsing to Brave. (Discontinuing the use of safari, chrome, ect.)
What is Brave?
Brave is a free, open source web browser that blocks ads and website trackers and also allows you to reward content creators for producing good content by paying them with cryptocurrency.
A few weeks ago, I switched almost all of my web browsing to Brave (with their partner search engine DuckDuckGo as my default search engine), and my experience online has profoundly changed. (Mostly better, we will get to why)
As outlined above, there are many reasons to want enhanced privacy when using technology, but I want to focus on the one that has been the most measurable for me in improving my online experience.
As you probably already know, almost everything we do online is being tracked, stored as macro data, and then used as ammunition by advertisers to alter our web experience in such a way that makes buying shiny new products harder than ever!
This, on the surface that may not sound all that bad. That is what advertising is, creating a perceived need that drives us to buy a product, good, or service.
Psychologically influencing the “target market” in order to make a sale is a foundational tenant of marketing any product.
However, I feel that the new artillery of big tech (and their relationship with advertisers) has evolved into borderline mind control.
Creating a “perceived need” has evolved into creating a state of chronic unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The level of information being collected by big tech is now being weaponized against us to help foster a state of chronic dissatisfaction.
My opinion: optimized user experience is not worth your happiness/ contentment.
I am going to talk about the changes I’ve noticed after switching to Brave/DuckDuckGo as my default browser/ search engine…but first a little history about Brave.
Using brave, my online experience has changed. Here’s what I have noticed to be different so far:
- FASTER INTERNET: Apparently, all those ads and trackers are slowing your internet bandwith way, way down. The increase in speed when surfing the web when using Brave is remarkable. Brave even gives you analytics on how much time you have saved by using their browser. (And I actually believe it’s accurate)
- No creepy targeted ads: I had forgotten what it was like to spend time researching a product or topic without getting hammered with Instagram ads for that very thing the next day. We are like a frog being boiled with how blatant these ads are becoming. I’ll leave it at that.
- Search Engine Frustrations: I love DuckDuckGo, but there is a slight convenience tradeoff from not having your search engine spy on you. DuckDuckGo is a really impressive search engine (without the budgets, engineering, and macrodata library of say, google), but it (for obvious reasons) doesn’t do quite as well at assuming the context of a search (particularly with amiguous search requests). Google can look at their library of data on you and better assume what you mean/what you are looking for, handy but not worth it in my opinion.
- Earn bitcoin just by surfing the web!! This could be a blog by itself, but Brave has created something called Basic Attention Tokens (BAT’s) which are earned by the user (you) while you surf the web. In order to become eligible for BAT’s you must enable ad’s (safe one’s that don’t require tracking or data collection of any kind) that allow you to earn value (crypto) for your attention. You are also able to give your accumulated BAT’s to different websites/ creators, rewarding websites/ creators for producing valuable content. (With no real cost to you) The BAT’s don’t equate to much (I earn roughly the equivalent if $2 US in bitcoin per month) but it is a fundamental shift from the revenue model of most free online services (think internet browsers, search engines, social platforms) that make their revenue off of stealing your data.
All in all, I’m really happy with Brave/DuckDuckGo. I feel like I am supporting something good, and am claiming a small piece of my technological freedoms back. The downsides are minor, and who doesn’t want faster internet, more privacy, and to earn bitcoin while they use the web.
Also, you might find yourself spending less money by shielding yourself from overly-targeted ads (many of which use fear as a tool for sales) and become a happier person as a result.
At least that’s been my experience.