Everybody has our data … except us

By Johannes Ernst


Google has all my e-mail. (And I don’t. They merely let me access it with a browser.)

Facebook has the list of all of my friends and what I said to them. (And I don’t.)

LinkedIn has all of my business contacts. (Repeat after me: and I don’t.)

Instagram has all my photos. Well, the Instagram department of Meta does. (Chorus now: and I don’t.)

Amazon has the list of all my purchases, and knows what products I was interested in but didn’t buy after all. (AND I DON’T.)

The list goes on.

Does this sound right to you? It sounds quite wrong to me.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. Things go well in this arrangement, don’t they?

Not so fast. Let’s start with losing access to my accounts. Maybe I forgot my password and failed to reset it. Or maybe I managed to get a password reset e-mail but my primary e-mail account was hacked, and now the attacker controls my Facebook account and I don’t. Maybe Google decided to disable my account, as they sometimes do, and given that there is no appeals process, that’s the end of me and my e-mail. The end of a 20-year-long record of all important things I wrote to others and they wrote to me. In the blink of an eye, all gone, because they have my data and I don’t.

But even if I don’t forget my passwords and I don’t get hacked and I won’t get locked out: it’s a bit like being a really unimportant guest living in a fancy hotel on a short-term lease. They can kick me out any time, and keep all my furniture and other possessions, no questions asked. Thank you, I prefer my very own home, where nobody can kick me out, or at least renter protection laws, which don’t exist online.

We’ve got to get our data back.

Slightly edited June 2022 for better readability.