“As consumers, we are afforded only a few avenues of acceptable dissent—the most reasonable of which is that, if you don’t like what a company is doing, you can move your money and data elsewhere. But increasingly this option is unavailable to us.”
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple move more money than many medium-sized nations. Their extraordinary profits are won through extraordinary reach—this is not a secret. That a few companies are afforded unprecedented and shamefully unregulated access into our homes is now an unremarkable fact of living with tiny computers everywhere.
When Gizmodo reporter Kashmir Hill, or Kash, as I call her, approached me about her desire to rid herself of these companies, I was excited. As consumers, we are afforded only a few avenues of acceptable dissent—the most reasonable of which is that, if you don’t like what a company is doing, you can move your money and data elsewhere.
But increasingly this option is unavailable to us. The tech giants are so thoroughly woven into our lives that it’s difficult to even spot. This experiment was an opportunity to measure the reach of these companies and foreground the ways the world has become organized around them.
What I’m going to describe is how we collected and analyzed data. I have also included links to scripts for macOS and OS X that will build firewall rules for your device so that you too can live a tech-giant free existence—to the extent that such a thing is even possible while remaining online.
A caveat we’ve offered before at Gizmodo: This set-up was designed to work for us internally, so it is by no means the best or only way to do this. But hopefully it will give you some insights and starter code on how to approach this problem yourself.
About the Author:
Dhruv Mehrotra is an activist and engineer who thinks about networks, power, and policy. His work on the Goodbye Big Five series was supported by a grant from the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism.
- “I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell” by Kashmir Hill.