A Guide to Leaving Google

Everyone knows Google is big.
And they have great products.
They can afford the software developers to make these great products because they earn a lot of money collecting and selling their users’ data.

In 2020, they netted about $13 billion in profit and hired nearly 20,000 employees. Really good in a “pandemic.”

Source: 2020 Alphabet Earnings Release. “Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2020 Results”, 02/02/2021

Out of all searches done on the Internet, 90% of them will use the Google search engine and 63% of those searches will be from the Google Chrome browser. Android is the most-used operating system, easily beating out Microsoft Windows for the top spot.


2.5 billion Android phones in use in 2020.

Over 2 billion people a month used Google’s Workspace in 2020, including 5 million businesses using their paid service. Microsoft Office may still lead productivity at the office, but it is losing ground fast.

Today, many Americans now filter most of their digital lives through the 200+ companies owned by Google and Alphabet. Here are a few examples:
– Their physical connection to the Internet and phone system (Pixel phone / Chromebook / tablet)
– How they interface with their devices (Pixel phones, Chromebooks, tablets)
– How they interact with the Internet (Chrome browser)
– Where they get apps, movies, shows, music, books (Google Play Store)
– How they find content on the Internet (Google search engine)
– Their email, documents, photos, contacts… (Google Workspace)
– Their music videos, entertainment, kids’ content, education (YouTube)
– Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Home Hub
And a whole lot more

Why leave?

Google is collecting data from you at virtually every datapoint.
They know everything about you. The data collected from you is linked to the unique “fingerprint” of your Internet browser. This valuable information is sold to data miners, researchers, and advertisers, then handed over to authorities at request.

Google trades in filtered and processed data. Raw data is their raw material. You, the user, produce that raw material when you use their products. Their products are designed to harvest that raw material on continual basis. That’s why most of Google’s products are free to you, the user. Your data is a renewable resource; nothing more than recycled bits of ephemera of the human experience which, otherwise, would simply turn into memories.

Google’s bots scrape over EVERYTHING and index all content. Your email content, the files on your Google Drive, the metadata on your photos. Even your voice is recorded and stored on Google’s servers. The location of your cell phone is constantly tracked by your provider for service reasons. It is also tracked by Google, mapping everywhere you go, your routes, the times when you travel, the times when you’re stationary, the speed of travel. They also track telemetry – how your phone is moving at any given time at the stationary location, is it tilted up/down/left/right, is it in your pocket, is it in your hand by your ear, is it in your hand in front of your face, etc.

They use this knowledge to sell ads to other companies who want to target specific markets for their products. They control what your Internet world looks like, creating a “bubble” around you. They have the power to restrict your influence in the Internet world buy reducing the people who can see your content and there’s nothing you can do about it. If they decide your content is unacceptable, they can remove you from their platform, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And this data never goes away. You can request deletion, but with all of this collection, you can never be certain they did it. They are not the only ones doing this, but they are the largest. Google is a data monopoly. And you freely give them all the data they want from you to sell to their advertisers.

America is still a free market, though, and there are many choices available for people who are tired of Google.

First Steps

Initially, the desire to get away from Google can be overwhelming. Some want to toss their phones in the lake, but it is easier and more effective to take a gradual approach. One important note – privacy is the goal, not anonymity. Anonymity on the World Wide Web is a difficult task and beyond the scope of this article.

The easiest things to change are the browser and search engine. A common practical setup is to use the Firefox browser with the DuckDuckGo search engine. GNU IceCat has been previously recommended on our blog here, which is derived from Firefox, excluding Mozilla components. Since Chrome is based on open-source Chromium, some people use Chromium. There are other browsers based on Chromium, too, such as Brave and Microsoft Edge. You can do a little research and find more security/privacy focused browsers that are derivatives of both Firefox and Chromium.

A few websites such as banks, sites using physical access cards or dongles to login, or sites with critical security or communication requirements might need special exceptions to properly load. This may require some experimentation with different browsers and/or security settings. Some people use one browser for certain functions, like checking government email at home, and use another browser for most other work. Learn about settings and extensions or add-ons to make browsers more secure and restrict the amount of data collected. There are tools available to analyze your browser’s fingerprint, such as AmIUnique.org and Cover Your Tracks.

Try out other search engines, too, such as Qwant and metaGer. Even Bing and Yahoo can expand your bubble. Comparing search results can be surprising. Google’s search engine has been criticized for doing more than just keeping you in a bubble of your own preferences and geographical location. Google also shows results to try and shape users’ opinions on political and social issues, and even suppress news stories. Searching “black lives” on Google results in a full page of positive content about the “Black Lives Matter” group and movement. The same search on metaGer brings a more balanced page of content.

Next Steps

For more of a challenge, start changing how you get your work done on the Internet. Zoho mail is a great replacement for Gmail for personal or business. It’s free and can use your own domain, if you have one. They have a full office suite of apps for team collaboration available a la cart, so you can get what you need. Some of the apps need a subscription, though. When signing up for the email, you can chose Business or Personal. They tailor services to especially to small business customers.

Microsoft has a paid cloud-based solution in Office365. Before you jump ship to them, remember it was Microsoft who was the original tech monopoly. In 1999, the Department of Justice issued them a stunning defeat, forcing major changes to the company. Exercise your due diligence before embracing them over Google’s practices.

Another cloud-based solution comes from a company called cloudamo. They are a partner with NextCloud, which is free software that has a cloud drive, contacts, calendar and more. They put that together with OnlyOffice, an open-source, cloud-based office suite similar to Office365. Their subscription plans start at $36/year. No email service is included in this deal, though.

ProtonMail or Tutanota are focused on secure email. They can send and receive encrypted email as well as regular email. Setup a free account with either of them and enjoy more privacy and better security than Gmail. Also comes with calendar and contacts.

Next, change your desktop office suite.
If you have a PC (Windows/Mac/Linux) you can install LibreOffice for no cost. It covers all of the major productivity apps. This is great if you don’t need office documents on a cell phone. They have installations available for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

And Finally…

Self-Hosting your own complete Google Workspace replacement.
A more advanced solution, but one you can control completely, is self-hosting. To do this in the cloud, you’ll need your own domain, a virtual private server (VPS) for email and NextCloud (about $6/month through DigitalOcean), and a VPS for OnlyOffice (about $48/mo through DigitalOcean). DigitalOcean is just an example; there are lots of VPS providers looking for your business. The cost for the OnlyOffice VPS is higher because it needs at least 8GB RAM to handle the office documents in the cloud. Setup the first VPS with open source software called “Mail-in-a-box” (MIAB) is very easy to setup, does a good job of security, makes administration easy, and comes complete with a basic version of NextCloud. Setup the second VPS for OnlyOffice, then tell NextCloud where to find it to integrate the office apps. The great thing about doing your own setup is you can have as many users as you want (or your VPS can handle) and you control your own data. Just remember that you are the administrator in this setup. MIAB forums are a great help.

It’s time to ditch Mozilla.

Over the years, using Linux, Mozilla’s Firefox has almost always arguably been the best option for an open-source, privacy-respecting browser. I’ve been personally using Firefox for nearly 6 years as my primary web browser and I’ve been relatively satisfied with its functionality, stability, and extensibility.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Mozilla is no longer (or perhaps maybe, has never been) an organization that champions an open internet, freedom of expression, and personal privacy.

Mozilla still continues to sell itself as an anti-establishment organization fighting for the little guy, despite the facts that I’m about to point out.

Mozilla couldn’t care less about your privacy.

By default, Mozilla Firefox has telemetry enabled. This means that data regarding your browsing activity and usage of Firefox are sent directly to Mozilla. In all fairness, you can disable it, but any organization which puts privacy first isn’t going to have it enabled by default.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a few months ago Firefox started pushing DNS over HTTPs. But that sounds good, right? DNS over HTTPS isn’t inherently a bad thing, except by default it’s provided by Cloudflare (which, you can read my previous post regarding Cloudflare).

Mozilla doesn’t support freedom of expression and takes radically-left positions.

This summer, I noticed this appear as a ‘snippet’ in the new tab page of my Firefox browser:

Of course, I didn’t appreciate having mantras of “social justice” plastered on my new tab page, so I went into my settings to turn off Snippets. Well, upon opening the page, Snippets were already disabled.

Upon seeing this, I decided to submit a bug to Firefox’s bug-tracking software known as Bugzilla. This bug received two replies from developers and was in short order closed as an apparent non-issue. I intended on including the screenshot of my submission to Bugzilla, but it has apparently been deleted.

Having leftist propaganda beamed directly into my browser without my consent is bad enough. Last month, early in January, Mozilla called publicly in a blog post for “more than deplatforming” of individuals who don’t align with their preferred political, social, and moral ideologies.

Based on all of this, firstly, CYGO Network will NO LONGER be recommending any of Mozilla’s products, Firefox included. Secondly, we should stop using Mozilla software. Is it really that difficult to see the possibility of Mozilla implementing some sort of utility that blocks websites like ours, without the consent of its users?

What browser do I recommend?

To preface this, I’ve seen a lot of people promoting and shilling for Brave browser. I’ve had discussions with colleagues, friends, and users regarding Brave over the past few years, and I must say that it’s just another Chromium-based browser with a plethora of alarming concerns. Brave browser isn’t a suitable piece of software in itself, much less an alternative to Firefox.

As I said above, Firefox at its core is still a good piece of software. This considered, I recommend GNU IceCat. IceCat is a Firefox-based web browser that removes all Mozilla-specific utilities and telemetry, previously known as IceWeasel which was the browser shipped by default in Debian. It’s also worth noting that since IceCat is a project of GNU and the Free Software Foundation that IceCat contains no non-free or proprietary software. It’s also worth noting that there are unofficial builds available for Microsoft Windows, and I opened an issue on the Github repository requesting that instructions for building the package be added to the README.

How does one ensure free speech on social media?

It’s fair to say that I personally am one of the pioneers in the concept of an open social network. While there are many supposedly “open” platforms, most aren’t encouraging of giving users the right to freedom of speech. For instance, Mastodon, which is a decentralized, federated social network which is designed to be open, adds any instances with “hate speech”, “offensive content” or really just any instance that the maintainers of fediblock happen to dislike to a blocklist for all instances. If instances do not utlize fediblock, they are added to fediblock. Of course, fediblock is maintained by none other than an LGBT community, so we know that of course this blocklist couldn’t be biased in any way.

SJW silencing an entire Mastodon instance simply because they dislike them.

So, now that I’ve established what an open social network ISN’T, what is a truly open social network?

The concept of an open social network is very simple, in essence. It’s based upon the fact that everyone has a right to say what they desire to whomever is willing to listen.

What does that mean for offensive speech? Users can choose to ignore it by not interacting with the user, or even blocking them if they feel inclined. Nonetheless, hate speech is still free speech, people have a right to their thoughts even if they are bigoted.

This sort of hands-off approach to moderating a social network is actually rather effective and widely applicable. It allows communities within that social network to create their own guidelines. It also gives users control over the people and communities they interact with. After all, an open social network doesn’t mean everyone has to think in the same manner, such a policy would be stifling of creative free expression and freedom of thought.

It’s vitally important that we have a society which is diverse, full of different people of different backgrounds and lifestyles, with different preferences, moral standards, humor, politics, etc. Everyone shouldn’t be locked into an ideology or a mindset of what is considered universally acceptable.

I feel as if an open social network gives users the opportunity to voice unpopular opinions, beliefs, and concepts that may not be universally acceptable. This enables people to come together, to form rich communities with like-minded people, without having to worry if other users or the administration is supportive.

There are very slight limits to this freedom; of course it is my philosophy to keep it as open as possible. Still yet, harassing an individual is unacceptable, users who are being harassed may and frankly should choose to block the offending user. There’s no need for any sort of administrative intervention in such a situation. This similarly applies to the raiding of communities; one community should not be allowed to silence another. This does not mean that they cannot be critical or opposing of one another, it means that they need to ‘stay in their lane’ so to speak. When an opposing community invades another, that is an instance in which administrative action against said community should be taken.

There is of course illegal content, and the potential for orchestration of illegal activities to occur. In such cases, administration should take an action against the offending individual(s) or community(s), yet take no legal responsibility for such content or communications, and remain an outsider to any legal process regarding them.

This brings me to the importance of impartiality. I myself am a Republican, I have some rather resolute views and I strongly disagree with many people. Of course, in the administration of a truly open social network, I do and absolutely must put that aside, and ensure that everyone has the right to express themselves freely regardless of my opinion on their stance. All individuals responsible for administrating/moderating an open social network must be capable of putting their personal opinions aside when carrying out administrative actions. This is crucial as bias on the part of administration would undermine the entire concept of an open social network.

Another thing that ensures impartiality is the lack of any for-profit ventures within or related to the social network or organization controlling it. As we’ve seen in many prime examples such as Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and Instagram the interests of investors and advertisers are put before users and their communications. Money cannot be an influence for control of content, users, ideas, etc within an open social network.

These are the standards I’ve developed since the inception of CYGO Network in 2017, and I continue to apply them to the administration of our relatively new social network, Bleu, which is touted as a Reddit alternative. I hope to continue and build on this libre philosophy for our community and services provided here, as well as to be a guide for others who seek to establish an open and diverse online community.

Mojang and Its Relationship with Communist China

This is my first time writing for CYGO, so first I should probably introduce myself. My name is Liz, and I have a large background in many software-related fields. The experience I have in those fields do not consist of professional experience, but rather practical experience. Even though I have not been hired for such expertise, this is because I am currently not looking to be hired in these fields; I’m only seventeen, after all. Among other things, leaning more conservatively while aiming to be a centrist has led me to believe that free speech is a must in any modern society. I am a big fan of EDM, and I also like a good range of other music genres. Needless to say, the majority of my days are spent in front of a computer screen. Anyway, that’s enough about me, on with the article. (if you want to know more about me you can find me in CYGO communities, usually under the name RailRunner16, my messages are open)

So What’s the News?

I have been playing Minecraft, a worldwide best-selling game by Mojang A.B., for a good chunk of my life. In fact, I have been playing since before the release of 1.6.4 in September 2013. Lately, I have been boycotting the game, for a simple yet different reason: Mojang is trying to kiss up to China’s communist government. You’re probably thinking, “Woah, you can’t just drop a bomb like that”, but I sure can. Ever wonder why they didn’t add sharks in the aquatic update, then added pandas in the next update? There’s your answer. You see, during that time, there was a massive movement in China about the endangerment of sharks. When confronted about why sharks would not be in Minecraft, Mojang made a statement that they had two big reasons:

  1. They didn’t want people trying to ride sharks in real life, or in game because that would be “animal abuse”. What? Yeah, don’t ask me what genius came up with this. Also, the animal abuse statement is funny coming from a game where you burn cows to get food.
  2. They didn’t want kids to go out and try to kill sharks – again, in real life. This reeks of anti-extinction effort, which is okay. However, political issues like this should not affect development. It especially shouldn’t determine whether or not something gets added to the game.

Pandas, Anyone?

As a former resident of Florida, I can assure you that the world would be okay without sharks. However since that is not what this article is about, it is panda time. Mojang decided to add panda bears, bamboo forests, and the especially rare red panda to the game the update directly after the no-shark update. I guess the fact that panda bears are primarily found in China makes it okay to add them, even though they’re in more danger of extinction than sharks. In other words, this is Mojang contradicting themselves on a massive scale.

The Reason

The only evident reason Mojang is prioritizing the Chinese market is because it is so huge. Chinese players make up a massive part of Minecraft’s always-evolving player base. From a business standpoint this makes sense to some degree. However, if the rest of the players were aware of this, and what it means for the game, Minecraft would lose an even bigger chunk of its player base.

The Meaning

You may be wondering, “What’s the meaning of all of this?”. Really, this should be a lesson for any game development studio similar to Mojang. A lesson to keep politics out of your game, even if it does mean you lose a chunk of your player base. It is also a lesson that a game’s content should stay true to the game’s purpose.


If you really want to get on board with stopping this Chinese agenda, you can play Minecraft alternatives. If enough people play alternatives like Minetest, it can really help prove a point to Mojang. That point being that our minds are not butter and we do have a voice that needs to be heard. I personally still love Minecraft itself because it made up a large chunk of my childhood. I won’t stop playing it from time to time just because Mojang decides to kiss up to China. That also doesn’t mean I won’t fight for change. I personally wish to see Minecraft back to the way it was: playful, carefree and non-political.

What in the world is this Linux thing?

Many of you who have looked at our Contributors page, specifically the entry for me, you may have noticed a mention of something called “Linux”. Some of you may have even wondered what this “Linux” thing is, and probably didn’t get a good, straight answer. Well guess what I’m here to do?

To understand what Linux is, we need to understand what an operating system is first.

Operating Systems (OSs) are the system your computer uses to provide a graphical interface, install and use apps, manage files and memory, and basically anything else. Some well known OSs are Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Each of these handles files, memory, and applications in a different way. Think of OSs as a person’s personality: many people may have similar personalities, despite speaking different languages or having different skills. But, those skills may influence them and how they interact with the world, just like how an app can change a computer and how it interacts with you, your hardware, or the internet.

Most OSs fall under one of two families: UNIX-based, and DOS-based. Some examples of DOS-based systems are Windows (especilly pre-Windows NT), FreeDOS (an open-source implementation of the old MS-DOS operating system), and ReactOS (an open-source, reverse-engineered implementation of Windows systems).

UNIX-based systems can be split further into two sub-families: BSD-based and Linux-based. UNIX was an operating system developed by AT&T at Bell Labs back in 1971. It presented a number of revolutionary concepts to computing, such as pipelines and file descriptors. Unfortunately, UNIX was proprietary, meaning you could not obtain the source code, modify it to do as you pleased, and had to pay for a license to use it.

BSD-based operating systems, like MacOS and iOS, are based off an open-sourced fork of UNIX, known as BSD (BSD stands for Berkeley Software Distribution. BSD was developed at UC Berkeley, hence it’s name). True BSD systems strive to adhere to the UNIX philosophy and provide an open-source implementation of the original UNIX operating system. However, you can find BSD-based OSs that diverge from this norm, such as MacOS and iOS. Many in the BSD and Linux communities do not consider these true BSD-based operating systems because of how many changes have been made to the source code. As such, many consider these more of a distant cousin to BSD-based OSs than a close relative.

Linux-based OSs, also referred to as GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux, are operating systems that use the Linux kernel (the kernel is essentially the beating heart of your OS. Going back to the personality analogy, it’s like the basic capabilities all people have when they are born: basically useless on it’s own. But once you build on top of it you can do a lot more and make a full personality). Linux was created in 1991 by a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds. He took what he saw in BSD and similar OSs, and made his own rendition. He posted it online, as open-sourced code at the encouragement of his friends, and from there it exploded. Today, the Linux kernel has had over 10,000 contributors and is one of the leading competitors to Windows.

But why should you care? You run a Windows computer, and an Android phone. You don’t run Linux.

Oh, yes you do.

If you go on your Android phone into the Settings, and go to About Phone > Software Information, you will see a kernel version listed. It may even say “Linux Kernel Version”. This is Linux. Android is a Linux-based OS (these are often refered to as ‘distros’, however due to Android’s lack of several standard utilities found in Linux distros for desktop and server systems, many do not refer to Android as a “distro”). You use Linux on a daily basis, because developers found it a good fit for Android’s needs for security, stability, and performance.

But wait, you actually use MacOS and iOS. Silly me. You don’t have Android anywhere in your house! But what about that Google Smart Speaker, or Alexa-enabled toothbrush? Yep. Those are running Linux too. Linux can run forever and not crash (assuming it’s not tampered with by a hacker or bad update), making it perfect for smart home devices, routers, and servers.

Wait. Servers you say? Aren’t websites stored on servers?

Yes, Jimmy. Yes they are. Most web servers (98% of all of them in fact, including CYGO, Swivro, and Drauger OS servers) run Linux due to not just the advantages listed above, but also because they are easy to manage and difficult to hack.

But it goes beyond even that.

The top 500 super computers in the world, all Raspberry Pi computers, the International Space Station, the Mars rover Curiosity, SpaceX’s rockets and Dragon capsules, Tesla’s cars, most mainframes, some Wi-Fi routers, the particle accelerators at CERN, and Chromebooks all run Linux in some form or another. I can guarantee that you interact with Linux in some form every day, and you may never even realize it.

Okay. So it’s essentially running the world. Why do you care?

Because it’s coming for your computer too.

Linux performs better than Windows and MacOS in many settings, has less resource usage, is infinity more customizable than almost anything else out there, is easier to to install and uninstall software on, and is easier to develop software for. And as a cherry on top of that beautiful cake, it also has less tracking and telemetry than Windows does (usually. Looking at you Android.) meaning it respects your privacy. And the good news keeps coming because Linux is also more secure than MacOS, which is in itself more secure than Windows.

So why not try it out? Linux is free to use and you can try it off of a USB drive without ever installing it to your computer. You can follow this guide on how to do it to get you started. And, it should apply to almost any Linux distro.

But which Linux distro should you use? There hundreds, if not thousands, of them!

This comes down to personal choice for the most part. But, here are some of my personal suggestions:

Linux Mint


Linux Mint is a Linux distro aimed at new Linux users coming from Windows. It makes getting used to Linux easy, has a welcoming community, and works decently well on most hardware.

Linux Mint has 3 versions: Cinnamon, MATE, and Xfce. Use the Xfce version on lower-end hardware. Use Cinnamon on just about anything else. If Cinnamon feels slow on your system, but you don’t think your system is all that low-end, try MATE.

Elementary OS


Elementary OS is a Linux distro with a design inspired by MacOS. For some Mac users, they may feel right at home. It’s aim is to be easy to use while being clean and elegant.

Elementary OS is not as customizable as some other distros, so if you don’t think you will modify Linux too heavily, then Elementary OS may be a good fit for you.

Zorin OS


Zorin OS is a distro similar to Linux Mint, in that it strives to be easy to use for new users coming from Windows. However, it differs in 3 important ways:

1. Zorin OS is better designed for 2-in-1 and tablet-convertable laptops due to it's larger and more dynamic interface.
2. Zorin OS looks more like Windows 8 or Windows 10, while Linux Mint looks more like Windows Vista or Windows 7.
3. Zorin OS uses slightly more system resources than Linux Mint.

Overall, if you have a new computer or a 2-in-1, but still want that Windows-like desktop layout, Zorin OS is a good choice.



Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro available. It’s desktop, while more unique, is usable on 2-in-1s, tablet-convertibles, laptops, and desktops. It has a huge, vibrant community, and support for it is easy to find. In fact, most support found for Ubuntu also works for the other distros listed here for the most part, since they are based on Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is also the distro recommended for gaming on Linux by Valve, the company behind Steam, CS:GO, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and more.

If none of the other distros really makes you feel at home, or you really just want a unique desktop layout to wow your friends, Ubuntu is the way to go. This entire blog post was written on Ubuntu!

As you can might be able to tell, Linux puts an emphasis on choice. It’s YOUR choice what distro you run. It’s YOUR choice how your computer looks and works. It’s YOUR choice if your computer runs Linux at all!

At the end of the day, trying Linux isn’t a bad idea. And, if you don’t like it, that’s fine. But, come back and try it again a couple years later, because Linux development works at a rapid pace. So if you have hardware or software issues, in a couple years time the issues should either be easier to fix or already be fixed for you!

I’ve been running Linux on all my personal machines for the past 6 years, and while I admit there have been hiccups along the way, most of those where my own fault.

Just make sure not to run sudo rm -rf /* if you value your data.

No, CloudFlare doesn’t respect your privacy: CloudFlare issues & truly anonymous DNS

CloudFlare DNS ( claims to be a public DNS resolver which claims, according to their website;

“We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained a big 4 accounting firm to audit our assertions about our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say. Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.”

Interestingly enough, CloudFlare entered into a research agreement with APINC, the organization which owns the IP range. According to APINC, the statements regarding CloudFlare DNS, it’s privacy, and anonymity on its official website are simply false.

“We will be destroying all “raw” DNS data as soon as we have performed statistical analysis on the data flow. We will not be compiling any form of profiles of activity that could be used to identify individuals,”


The fact that they have “raw” DNS data, containing personally-identifiable information such as IP addresses (since, after all, IPs are the focus of their research) doesn’t merely imply that they collect it, but it is a direct claim stating that they DO in fact collect said information; otherwise it wouldn’t be in their possession to perform “statistical analysis”.

But that’s not even the worst of what CloudFlare has done;

According to a source which I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon; CloudFlare has protected websites owned by ISIS, the Taliban, and likely other terrorist groups as well. CloudFlare has not only proxied terrorist content, but according from an excerpt pulled from the New York Times, they have even provided their services to websites containing child pornography.

I’ll end this section with this peachy little quote from the CEO of CloudFlare:

“Back in 2003, Lee Holloway and I started Project Honey Pot as an open-source project to track online fraud and abuse. The Project allowed anyone with a website to install a piece of code and track hackers and spammers. We ran it as a hobby and didn’t think much about it until, in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security called and said, ‘Do you have any idea how valuable the data you have is?’ That started us thinking about how we could effectively deploy the data from Project Honey Pot, as well as other sources, in order to protect websites online. That turned into the initial impetus for CloudFlare.” – Matthew Prince


More fun little things regarding CloudFlare’s shady operations and past can be found here, this website was put together rather well and includes citations.

You can’t trust most public DNS servers.

DNS servers collect identifiable information with each query, so it’s difficult to find a public DNS server which truly doesn’t collect or retain this data. For our purposes here, I’m going to simply say that it isn’t truly possible to have the perfect solution with any 3rd party DNS provider. The only person who you can really trust with your own privacy is yourself; which brings me to the solution.

Unbound: A DNS server that runs on your local machine.

That’s right; a separate machine for a DNS server isn’t even necessary! You can run unbound directly on your workstation or laptop! According to Unbound’s website, it is compatible with both Microsoft Windows and Linux-based operating systems, among others including macOS and BSD derivatives.

The documentation made available here under the Manual Pages section will help you install Unbound and get started with it. It’s extremely simple to install on Windows using the executable installer or through your Linux distribution’s package manager.

It’s very easily installed on Windows

Once you have ran the executable to install the package, on Windows, only one change needs to be made regarding network settings in order for Unbound to essentially work out of the box!

Just go to Network and Internet Settings>Adapter Options, then right-click on your network interface, select properties, then double-click on “IPv4”.

Set your preferred DNS server to (Your machine/localhost, where Unbound is running). Personally, I set my Alternate DNS to NixNet DNS, as I know the owner of the service and trust that he dumps his logs to /dev/null or purges them as needed to ensure user privacy as he shares much the same, if not stricter privacy standards than CYGO. Technically, the alternate DNS probably won’t even be used as long as Unbound is functional.

I hope this post was helpful! Be on the lookout for more posts like this, and check out previous posts in the CYGO contributor blog series.

“Incognito” Mode and Why Your Privacy Is a Lie

It’s a common situation – you want to look up something private on the internet that you would rather no one know about. You go to Google Chrome and open up an Incognito tab, finish your business, and close the window. None of your cookies or browsing data was saved, so you’re fine. Completely anonymous, right? Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

How Our Browsing Data is Harvested

To begin, we need to understand just how much data we share online without even realizing it, starting from our browser. When we type a search into Google, our browser shares the operating system of the device, type of browser, system language, installed browser fonts, time zone, screen size and color depth, browser extensions, your user agent string, among many other kinds of data. This data is not only shared with Google, but with any other trackers that may be embedded in the page. When all of this data is complied together, a tracker can then create a unique identity for your browser in a method known as browser fingerprinting. Combined with your public IP address, a completely accurate identifier can be made for you and the browser. This makes tracking cookies unnecessary, and thus deleting cookies in an attempt for privacy becomes completely useless.

Once a tracker has created a unique fingerprint for your browser, any search or web activity you make is tied to you, regardless of whether you are using Incognito mode or not. This can be done across multiple web sites, as trackers exist virtually everywhere on the internet. These trackers then use the information they collect to form a profile about you based on your browsing habits, and use or sell that information to show you targeted ads.

Once a tracker has created a unique fingerprint for your browser, any search or web activity you make is tied to you, regardless of whether you are using Incognito mode or not.

It’s not just your daily internet browsing habits either. Google Maps catalogues every place you have ever been if you have shared your location with them for some reason. Facebook Messenger listens in on your calls. Your Spotify music data is sold to Google and Amazon. All of these invasions of privacy are done with the same goal in mind – to collect as much information on you as possible to form an accurate profile. If you have ever used the internet, you have been tracked.

Why do they do this? Simple. Because it is profitable. In these modern times, our data is more profitable than oil. Its no wonder how Facebook, Google, or Amazon became such tech giants – they exploited their users’ privacy.

“Well so what if they have some data on me? Why should I care?”

You should care in the same way that you would if someone put a camera in your bathroom. Google does not need to know your music taste or what kind of porn you watch in order to show you ads. You turn on Incognito mode to hide your browsing habits from other people, but you are okay to share it with a billion-dollar company?

Furthermore, this level of fingerprinting makes it very possible for people with less-than-great intentions to monitor people’s browsing habits in response to certain stimuli. To illustrate an example, a controversial news article can be displayed, and based on the search history after seeing it, the user’s reaction can be monitored. They can then use this data to further understand how to manipulate the opinions of the people.

“So how can I stop this fingerprinting from happening?”

The first step is to never use Google products or social media, as their number-one function is to gather data. Use DuckDuckGo to search the web, a privacy-oriented search engine that does not track or fingerprint users. For email and cloud storage, CYGO Network offers its own alternatives to Google.

Use a reliable VPN service that doesn’t sell your data either. Excellent ones to use are ProtonVPN, which has free and paid versions, or NordVPN. Next, download a privacy-oriented browser like Firefox and avoid Chromium-based ones like Opera or Google Chrome. Be sure to disable Javascript and Flash in the browser as these can be easily manipulated into giving out identifying information, but keep in mind that this will break sites like YouTube – which function by harvesting information from its visitors. Also install the browser extension Privacy Badger, which blocks all unwanted third-party trackers and is highly recommended.

For the next level of online anonymity, use the Tor browser. It has a slower connection speed when browsing the web, but the trade-off is near-complete privacy. Advanced users can also install a Virtual Machine and run the Tails operating system, an OS designed for internet anonymity.

“But I’m too stupid and lazy to figure out how to do all that.”

I can’t help you there.

In this online world, it is extremely difficult to avoid being tracked entirely, especially if you wish to use services like Amazon or YouTube. It is still important, however, to know that it is going on, and that there are resources available to individuals who care about their online fingerprint. What big tech companies are doing right now is borderline illegal; the extent to which our data is harvested is shocking and cannot be covered in just one article. This has to stop, as it infringes on our natural right to privacy, so sand your digital fingerprints.

MySQL vs SQLite

MySQL and SQLite are pretty much the worlds most popular database systems out there on the internet. There are some pros and cons of each of these systems, and there are some differences.

MySQL – 600MB
SQLite – 250kb

User Management:

MySQL – You can create users with different permissions.
SQLite – You cannot manage users

These of course are not all of its differences. SQLite does not provide network access, MySQL Does. SQLite is serverless, and requires no configuration setup, whereas MySQL Does. MySQL Can handle high traffic sites whereas SQLite has a limit. MySQL is definitely not as portable as SQLite.

If you want to use one of these databases, and can’t decide which one to use,
If you are hosting or developing a heavyweight app that you expect to eventually get a lot of traffic and lots of queries will happen via database, use MySQL.

If you don’t want to use a lot of storage, and your app is lightweight and will not get a lot of traffic, or is private, use SQLite.

Both of these databases are excellent in their own ways. You can download SQLite by clicking here, and you can download MySQL by clicking here.

TikTok: Really just innocent fun?

The first post in the CYGO contributor blog series.

What is TikTok?

According to Wikipedia, “TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos.”

By that brief definition, TikTok is portrayed as a place for creators to express themselves, as well as something that could harbor an interesting and diverse community.

TikTok stifles true creativity and free expression.

TikTok is filled with unoriginal content. It is dominated by a majority of people recreating existing content including already popular mainstream soundtracks and such. It’s essentially a community of people beating dead horses. Considering the majority of its users recreate content; there is no true creative content shared through the platform.

It is also reasonable to assume that considering TikTok is a Chinese company (all Chinese companies are directly under the control of the Chinese government), that content posted on TikTok must conform to the ideals of the Chinese government, which can lead to user censorship, hence the loss of any sort of freedom of expression.

According to The Washington Post, last November a TikTok user located in New Jersey, Feroza Aziz, was suspended from the app after posting content which was openly anti-Chinese.

Leaked documentation from the company illustrates that they are making an attempt to censor content which is political or otherwise controversial in nature.

TikTok actively mines user data.

According to CNET news, a class action lawsuit was filed in December 2019 against ByteDance/TikTok by a California resident.

The lawsuit alleges that user content, such as videos only saved as drafts rather than videos which are published; without any user consent.

California resident Misty Hong in her lawsuit also claimed that she installed TikTok on her device but did not create an account, yet some time later she discovered that the application had created one on her behalf without permission.

TikTok not only disrespects its users’ privacy, but could be a U.S. national security risk.

Videos published on TikTok often contain close-ups of its users faces. Considering the Chinese government has access to essentially all of the data on ByteDance’s Chinese servers, such videos could be used for surveillance purposes, or even worse, for facial recognition software and/or databases.

It poses such a risk to United States national security that the Defense Department has advised government employees to cease use of TikTok, which has prompted the U.S. military to ban the app from all government-owned devices.

You’re funding all of this.

When using TikTok, users are served advertisements which provide the company with its substantial revenue. By using the application, you are funding a corporation which is mining user data, using such user data to serve targeted ads, and likely in some way to benefit the Chinese government. If all users came together and deleted their TikTok accounts as well as the application from their devices, we could help to curb these issues to an extent.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to continuing this blog series in an effort to further aid our community and readers in taking control of their privacy.