I received a user request recently to add a new field in the
Buku sqlite database to store the date of addition. I declined it immediately citing the stated strategy of the utility not to track user data (like my other utilities). No, it doesn't want to record that during your last official trip you had been visiting adult sites extensively and let someone sort your stored bookmarks by date and get the information handed out for free.
When we install and use a new software, it's important to know what it does with your private information. There's a great advantage of using free and open source software here because one can audit the code. If we don't do it we may be regularly using software which track our footprints continuously with or without our knowledge or without the correct configuration not to track sensitive data though there are provisions to do that. Note that the continuously is important. As human beings, we will surely lose track of what we are allowing the software to record at some point. That doesn't stop the software recording in the background.
- A popular software that speeds up file searches on *nix -
locate. I've seen people use it extensively.
locategenerates a database of your files and most users install it but don't configure which paths it scans. The same goes for GNOME tracker.
- Software that track navigation frequency to take the user to the right directory and simplify navigation.
- Many popular shells record successful command history (e.g.
fish) and users seldom remember to add a space in front of the sensitive commands they run so they don't get history-ed.
- The first thing many multimedia players do is to scan (auto or with user input) and create a library of your media files. To my horror I discovered one day SMPlayer adds tracks to a playlist by default I never knew existed. So it's possible the last movie you download from torrent is written right there!
- Bookmarks added in browsers.
The information these utilities store can compromise us any day if we don't choose and configure them carefully (for utilities which offer config options)! We lost the luxury of wiping disks easily when SSDs became popular. What used to be so easy on HDDs is not possible on SSDs because they don't store data the same way HDDs do. Overwriting doesn't work. Secure erase is an option but doing it frequently may reduce the life of the SSD.
It's extremely important to carefully choose software we use daily - tools that respect your privacy. Personally, I am very particular about using software which don't track what I have on my drive, my activities and usage patterns. I don't like to spend time on configuring utilities so by default zero-tracking software is the sanest for me. I also use a high-speed SSD drive on my laptop so speed in not an issue. Here's what I use to handle the above use cases I mentioned:
fzcdto locate a file in the dir subtree
- Bookmarks in
nnnto jump to frequently used directories.
nnnis also great in simplifying navigation.
- I was a
fishshell user for years. I've recently moved on to vanilla
shshell which doesn't have history storing capabilities. If I use a command frequently I add it as a custom plugin in
nnnto work with the current filename and dir.
- MOC doesn't generate any library. You can play a single file or add multiple to it. You can
mocp -cto clear the playlist.
Bukufor web bookmarks.
Which utilities do you prefer to retain control on your privacy?
Update: raised a request for software privacy-awareness-level badges here: https://github.com/badges/shields/issues/4366