How do I make the least out of Google Hangouts?
April 2, 2019 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Please talk to me about security and privacy and keeping as far out of Big Brother Google's prying eyes as possible while using Hangouts.

There is a potential client who wants to speak with me. For reasons (on their end) phone calls are out and Skype is apparently unworkable. They want to chat via Hangouts.

My issue is that personally, I try to keep as much of my life and my data out of Google's clutches as possible. I don't have a Gmail address. I don't log into any of Google's services. Yes, I do use the search engine, but that's as far as I go.

So how do I set this up in a way that will be easy to delete in the future and that won't leak every tiny speck of personal data to Google? I realize I'll have to get a gmail address, but I'm perfectly happy to set one up that's essentially a throw-away account with no personally identifying data connected to it.

I'm wiling to do this on my ancient iPhone if that's the better option when it comes to avoiding oversharing of data. I don't use any apps on my phone. It's a phone, it is used for making calls, and for being an e-reader and that's about it.
posted by sardonyx to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can make a Google account without having to create a Gmail address. My husband signs into hangouts with his Hotmail address since he wants to chat on it but not have another email address. So if you have a disposable email address, create a Google account attached to that address, and then you can login to Hangouts with that address. Do your chatty business, and then dispose of said email. Wouldn't hurt to VPN and probably isolate any device you're logging in with so that it doesn't start associating the disposable email address with your other legitimate web traffic.
posted by msbutah at 3:22 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also use a private browsing window (aka incognito window) to sign up for and use your google account, so that they don't have a way to correlate any past or future interaction with them in your day-to-day browsing.
posted by Aleyn at 4:50 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think Google and other big-name free service providers are pretty insistent these days about getting hold of your phone number, for "security purposes", aren't they? Or maybe there's some way to get around that?
posted by XMLicious at 5:19 PM on April 2, 2019

Signal Messenger has phone call ability as well as texting and it's considered to be a very secure option.
posted by odinsdream at 5:44 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I contributed to an anonymity guide, where you start with a burner phone and create various pseudonymous identities. It can be very difficult to divorce your real identity from fake within the global conspiracy of data mining, ads, and activity tracking. This is very likely overkill for your purposes. LMK if I should find its current URL. It's kind of hidden for a reason.

There's an episode of Adam Ruins Everything (on Netflix), "Adam Ruins the Internet", Season 1, Episode 23, which talks about the interconnectedness of the data that these companies gather about us, and how, when we decided we would accept "free" services, we cultivated a market where our attention and ad-related preferences drive it.

There's also a new episode of Smarter Every Day, "Manipulating the YouTube Algorithm", published on March 31, 2019 which covers another pretty fascinating aspect of the "attention economy". You might also find it interesting.

I tend to think that using other free services (or paid) that provide better security and less tracking might be the best way to go, if one's client(s) can be convinced. It can serve as a teaching moment, with the right situation/client, where you can even cement your expertise in tech things if you demo and promote something like Signal, which currently enjoys a good reputation among security/privacy folks.
posted by kalessin at 10:43 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've marked a couple as best answer, but I may come back to this if I have more technical questions.

Since this is only a potential client (and they're a much bigger organization than I am), I'm not currently in the position to suggest other services especially ones they've probably never heard of like Signal. I also get the feeling they people I'm dealing with aren't the ones in the position to make technology decisions, such as what software or apps can be used for corporate business.

I just want to isolate myself as much as possible from Google's info-sniffing abilities, using reasonable measures that aren't going to cost me an arm and a leg. If this should turn into something more than a potential feel-each-other-out type of discussion, I'll be in a better place to re-examine communication protocols.
posted by sardonyx at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2019

Won't have long before it's gone.
posted by radiosilents at 1:56 PM on April 12, 2019

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