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Why We Do not Break Big Tech: NPR



Gizmodo has tried to remove Kashmir Hill from all Amazon products – including its smart speakers – as part of a larger live experiment without major tech players.

Jeff Chiu / AP


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Jeff Chiu / AP

Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill has tried to disconnect all Amazon products – including its smart speakers – as part of a larger live experiment without major tech players.

Jeff Chiu / AP

Kashmir Hill loves the Amazon in his life, completely.

This is the first week of six week live experiment without tech giants. He has a virtual private network, or VPN, to keep his devices surrounded by any Amazon product. She will avoid Full Food and bring down her Kindle.

But he has a problem. A small, chipper problem.

Alexa.

He did not associate his Amazon Echo with VPN. But if he does not avoid a wise spokesperson, a person, like his wife, can forget and plug it back.

After a colleague suggested that he hide it. Say, to a drawer.

Hill used so much in Alexa's continuing presence, the convenient timers and music demanded, that he had not considered putting the device yet.

"We had just two for two years, and it has a level of popularity where I did not think to take the counter only," he told NPR's Weekend Edition . "I do not really believe it, especially since I'm a privacy reporter."

Hill, a reporter and editor at Gizmodo, has tackled extreme tech experiments before, like living in a smart home and spending just Bitcoin for a week.

Last fall, he decided to try to remove Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple – every one week, and then all at once. He wrote about his attempts at Gizmodo.

The experiment was inspired, he said, by the judgments of tech behemoths. Critics say companies are paying attention to ours, our data is being overridden and analyzed from our children. They have had so much economic power. They have our society in ways we do not yet fully understand.

"People will say, if you do not like the company, just stop using their products," Hill says. "I want to know if it's possible, and, spoiler, this is not possible."

Beyond a surface level boycott, such as removing his Facebook account, Hill tries to break any relationship that is usually releasing his data, money and attention to five companies. Each one publishes a list of the IP addresses they control, so the technologist Dhruv Mehrotra built a VPN that was actually blacklisted to those addresses.

With that VPN and no allowable decision, Hill placed Alexa in a drawer and started his Amazon week. And it seems that a wide web is flashing.

"When I started digging Amazon's statistics, I was surprised," she said. The company observes nearly half of all online commerce. But the company's best business is the Amazon Web Services, or AWS, its cloud confiscation arm that hosts apps and websites.

"They usually control the backbone of an Internet infrastructure," he says. "These are not just shipping packages across the globe but also sending a ton of data to people's computers."

Netflix, HBO Go and AirBnB are among many AWS-hosted websites, and therefore off-limits to Hill during its Amazon week (though he can browse NPR.org). Work tools are also prohibited: AWS hosts the Gizmodo website, as well as the Slack messaging platform. At one point, her daughter shouted at the digital entertainment blockade.

Other companies have shown unexpected challenges. Blocking Google means he can not use Lyft or Uber, relying on Google Maps. Going to any given coffee shop puts her at risk of contacting Microsoft, if the store uses Windows to run its payment system. Facebook's cuts left her emotionally isolated, tailored for connection even at the cost of extensive data tracking.

And there were slip-ups, like when he ordered an item from eBay instead of Amazon, just to show it to his door at an instant identification package. The seller used the Amazon to fulfill the order.

"The big thing I learned was not possible to navigate the modern world without interacting with these companies," he said. "I've made certain that I agree with some of the critics who say these companies are too dominant in their spaces."

Exception? Apple. Hill said that when he gave his iPhone and went out to Apple's "walled garden", he had no trouble stopping the company – and it did not get the data on him.

But giving his iPhone re-emerged a challenge He tried to block all five companies simultaneously during the last week of the experiment.

"Google and Apple have a duopoly on the smartphone market," he said. "So when I'm out trying to find a smartphone that's not made or held by either the tech giant, it's not possible."

After searching for vanity, he lived in a "phone mute." He chose Nokia 3310, an orange brick with a texting of T9 who trained countless memes – and probably still maintains its own continual existence – being absolutely not removed.

"I'm back in the & # 39; 90s!" Said Hill, laughing. "This experiment is a time machine."

A machine of time, and a lesson, too. Before the experiment, the first thing he will do every morning, before holding his wife or talking to his daughter, stares at a screen.

"I want to grab my iPhone and just start scrolling," he admitted. "This is how I started the day, every day."

There is no worth of Nokia 3310 scrolling, so he does not bother. The smartphone quickly broke his habit. Now she turns her phone every night, and she does not do it in the morning until she needs it.

"I got some bad tech habits," he said. "And I'm the only type of screen look at the least. So, if nothing else, I'm glad I made this experiment in terms of being a healthy tech user."

Editor's Note: Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are NPR's financial sponsors.

NPR's Emily Abshire contributed to this report.


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