Well… 2021 wasn’t what we’d hoped it would be, at least at a macro scale. The pandemic is still raging and I daresay the global political situation has been generally crappy. But when that calendar rolls over to January 1st, we have this social contract of breaking with the past and taking a fresh, hopeful look at the future. We resolve to do better this year. And we codify this by creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Here are some ideas to consider for 2022.
This is the fourth year I’ve published a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions. I’m trying to mix it up every year now, instead of just updating a single “top 10” list. So, be sure to look back at the older lists for more ideas (2019, 2020, 2021). And this year, I’m actually going to share with you my personal resolutions. These are things that I – despite being a “privacy and security guy” – have not yet completed (at least not to my satisfaction). We all have room for improvement and we all procrastinate. I’m no exception. So, here are some of my goals for 2022 that I think you should also seriously consider adding to your to-do list.
I Have a Google Problem
I’m a technologist. I love my tech. And when Google introduced Gmail in 2004 (on April Fool’s Day), I dove in head first. It was a heady, innocent time. Not only did I quickly lock in my user name, I even did so for my toddler daughters. We still use Google Calendar to synchronize our schedules. And we share stuff with Google Docs. Google’s web services are extremely easy to use and chock full of fantastic functionality.
But somewhere along the line, Google realized the value of all that juicy user data and couldn’t resist capitalizing on it. I get it. Providing all those services costs real money, but Google wasn’t charging for them. As we say: if the product is free, then you are probably the product. And that is definitely the case with Google. I wish it weren’t. I would happily pay good money for their services if I could do it privately.
Now, there is Google Workspace (previously called G Suite), which is their for-pay business offering. It does offer limited client-side encryption options. But it’s really not built for personal use. I just want what I have now to be private. I actually think Google may eventually offer this, either due to regulations or the threat of regulations. But until then, I need to break my Google addiction.
My Google Goals for 2022
So here’s my plan. I’m not going to delete my Google accounts. I’m in way too deep at this point. I can’t move my entire family off of Google, for example. I can’t tell all my friends and associates to stop sharing things with me using Google Docs. So instead, I’m going to do everything I can to minimize my Google footprint. Specifically…
Stop using Gmail. This is actually pretty easy. I’ve always used Gmail only for personal email (never businesses and junk stuff). And people don’t use email nearly as much today as they used to. I just need to tell everyone to start using a new address. I just have to pick one. But I have many. Too many. Honestly, that’s been the only thing holding me back: deciding which email address I want everyone to use for the rest of my life. When you own a web domain (and I own several), you can use any email service provider under the covers that you want. So any email address could be yours for life (as long as you own the domain).
Only use GCal with family. I’m not going to get my family off of Google. And we do need to coordinate calendar events. But I can move all my personal calendaring to another provider. I honestly find Fastmail to be the best, though Protonmail and Tutanota both offer calendars, as well.
Move contacts off Google. This is going to be tricky. My current contacts (address book) situation is a mess. My master list is with Apple’s Contacts, but every email provider I use (and I use several) has contact info, too. I’m not sure how best to manage this, to be honest. But when I stop using Gmail, I can at least remove those from Google’s servers.
Minimize use of Google Docs. Honestly, this is going to be the hardest one for me. While Apple, Microsoft and others offer cloud-based “office” apps, Google’s is by far the best, functionally. I’ve tried to use CryptPad – and I even pay for it – but it’s just clunky compared to Google Docs. There are other options like Nuclino and OnlyOffice. I’ll have to try them out and see. Zoho Docs looks interesting, too, but I tried them once before and wasn’t pleased… though I can’t recall why. But I have many friends and family members who collaborate with me using Google Docs, so I won’t be able to kick this completely.
It should be noted that I already don’t use Chrome, Google Search, Waze, Android or Nest products. I use Firefox, DuckDuckGo, Apple Maps, iOS and Eufy. While I use Google Drive for Google Docs, I don’t use it for general file sharing or syncing – for that I use Sync.com.
Other Goals for 2022
Honestly, de-Googling my life will take a good bit of time and effort. But I do have some other privacy and security goals for 2022 – goals I think you should consider adopting, as well.
Cancel my business debit card. As I wrote recently, my personal debit card was hacked, through no fault of my own. I barely used it. I canceled that card and exchanged it for an ATM-only card. However, I still have a business debit card that I use frequently. I need to move all my monthly charges off that card to a credit card, and then turn the debit card into an ATM-only card.
Update my estate info. While I don’t need to update my legal documents every year, I take some time to review my digital estate. I have supporting documents for my family that contain some personal wishes and information about all my various accounts they would need to access. I review it annually to make sure it’s up to date. It’s also a good time to close accounts you no longer need.
Move off of Yahoo mail. My Yahoo email predates Google. It’s my junk email – the one I used to give out when I had to give something out to someone I didn’t trust. The sheer number of email addresses (and user ID’s) I’ll have to change is truly daunting here. And again, I need to decide where I’m going to re-route them. Fastmail’s Masked Email or Apple’s Hide My Email are top contenders.
Finish my Priiv app items. (I mentioned this in my Best & Worst Gift Guide.) This is a big one, actually – lots of things to do here. However, the main one I want to be sure to do is invoke the data deletion feature that comes with the for-pay tier.
Other Goals to Consider
If you want more ideas to consider, my 2021 list is really important for those of you with connected devices at home. And the 2020 and 2019 lists have some good general tips, such as:
Use a password manager
Back up everything
Secure your home network
Use two-factor authentication
If you want more ideas, you can sign up for my newsletter and get a short doc that walks through my top 5 tips. And my book has 170 tips in it, complete with step-by-step instructions and pictures.
The longest journey starts with the first step! You don’t have to do everything and you don’t have to do it all right away. Pace yourself. Prioritize the goals that will make the most impact for you. Make a plan. Set some goals with reasonable deadlines. And strongly consider adding some goals to help your loved ones improve their security and privacy in 2022, as well.