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Why can not we break up with big technology: NPR



Cashmere Hill from Gizmodo tried to break the link with all Amazon products – including its smart speakers – as part of a bigger experiment in life without big tech players.

Jeff Chui / AP


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Jeff Chiu / AP

Cashmere Hill from Gizmodo tried to break the link with all Amazon products – including its intelligent speakers – as part of a bigger experiment in life without big tech players.

Jeff Chiu / AP

Kashmir Hill wanted the Amazon of his life, completely.

It was the first week of a six-week experiment in life without technological giants. It had a virtual private network, or VPN, to protect its devices from some Amazon product. He would have avoided "whole foods" and turned off the ignited lights.

But she had a problem. A little problem.

Alexa.

She could not connect her Amazon Echo to a VPN. But if she just turns off the intelligent speaker, someone like her husband can forget and turn it on again.

Then a colleague offered to hide it.

Hill was accustomed to Alexa's constant presence, convenient timers, and custom-made music that he did not even think of leaving the device aside. and there is already a level of popularity where I can not imagine dropping it off the counter, "she told NPR Weekend Edition . "I just can not believe it, especially since I'm a privacy reporter.

Hill, a reporter and editor at Gizmodo, has been engaged in extreme technical experiments before, living in a smart home and spending only Bitcoin for a week.

Last autumn, she decided to try cutting Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple – each for a week, and then all at once. She writes about her experience for Gizmodo. The experiment is inspired, she said, from the condemnations of the technical giants. Critics say companies benefit from our attention, misuse our data and earn from our children. They have concentrated too much economic power. They shape our society in a way that we do not yet fully understand.

"People will say if you do not like the company, just stop using their products," said Hill. "I wanted to know if this is possible, and, spoiler, is not possible."

Beyond a superficial boycott by erasing her Facebook account, Hill tried to break any links that usually direct their data, money and attention to the five companies. Everyone publishes a list of the IP addresses they control, so Dhruv Mehrotra's technologist has built a VPN that has basically included these addresses in the blacklist.

Armed with this VPN and resolute determination, Hill put Alexa in the drawer and started the week on Amazon. And it seemed as if a huge part of the network blinked.

"When I started drawing statistics for the Amazon, I was shocked," she said. According to reports, the company controls almost half of all online trading. The company's most profitable business is Amazon Web Services, or AWS, its cloud computing hand that hosts applications and websites.

"They basically control the type of backbone of the Internet infrastructure," she said. "They not only deliver packages anywhere in America, they also deliver a lot of data to people's computers."

Netflix, HBO Go, and AirBnB are among the many websites hosted by AWS, and were therefore out of bounds to Hill during the Amazon week (although it would be free to view NPR.org). Work tools were also banned: AWS hosts the Gizmodo site as well as the Slack messaging platform. At one point her daughter was crying about the blockade of digital entertainment.

Other companies presented unexpected challenges. Blocking Google meant she could not use Lyft or Uber who relied on Google Maps. Entry into every café puts her at risk of coming into contact with Microsoft if the store uses Windows to manage its payment system. Facebook's interruption made her feel strangely isolated, to bind with a connection even at the cost of comprehensive data observation. its door in an instantly recognizable package. The seller used Amazon to complete the order.

"The great thing I have learned is that it is not possible to navigate the modern world without coming into contact with these companies," she said. "It certainly made me feel sympathetic to some of the critics who say that these companies are very dominant in their spaces."

Exception Apple. Hill says that when she dropped out of the iPhone and came out of Apple's "enclosed garden," she had no trouble staying away from the company-and did not collect data about her.

"Google and Apple have a duopoly in the smartphone market"


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