Why I Started 'The Tools We Need'

I was not always a privacy nut job. It's been a slow evolution.

I was a Literature major at UC Santa Cruz and I spent most of my early career as an editor at WIRED, mostly running the now-defunct photography blog, Raw File.

I was in the newsroom for the first iPhone announcement and got to hold it in my hand before most of the world. I was a few desks away from Kevin Poulsen when he and Ryan Singel were covering the secret NSA surveillance room found at AT&T, and Kim Zetter when she covered Stuxnet. I saw friends get laid off because of the changes in media industry economics as the internet matured. During the same period, my now wife worked at an online ad company and I saw the backend and frontend of the industry change in real time.

By the time I left WIRED for Medium, native advertising was all the rage. At Medium I was the photo editor for publications sponsored by brands like BMW and Marriott.

Career Change

And yet it wasn't until I started my career as a software engineer that I really understood what technology was capable of, for good and bad. And where before we all kind of assumed that the average person knew what was going on, it became clear that the more they learned, the more they didn't like how their data was being used online. With every data breach, with every secret Facebook action revealed, the demand for privacy online slowly became a real market force.

So now I'm of the opinion that there is a huge, untapped consumer demand for tools that provide the services we've grown to love without the surveillance and monetizing of our personal data.

This blog is an attempt to close the gap between where we are and where I think most people would like to be. It's about compromising as little as possible on the digital luxuries we've come to expect, while taking control of our own data.

Data Ownership Is Going Mainstream

While some of my views used to be on the fringe, I think they are going mainstream.

Gavin Newsom recently announced a plan for California residents to receive a dividend for their data. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has created a company called Inrupt that's focused on giving users ownership of their data. And it seems that there's a daily story in most media outlets about data privacy, usually tied to a data breach or one of Facebook's many transgressions.

I think my journey to adopting these views is one that many people are on or will be on shortly. And once enough people have come to value their data and privacy, they will want tools that empower them to live their life the way that they want, not the way that manipulative software guides them towards.

So if you're skeptical, read on to see why I think the way I do, and most importantly, let me know when I'm wrong. If I'm trying to change your mind it's because I genuinely think it's in your best interest. Nothing would make me happier than readers living even a marginally more enjoyable life because of something that they've read here.

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Cover image by Max Saeling on Unsplash

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