We are concerned about the wrong kind of privacy

Yes, exposing all our information without permission is bad. But blocking all superficial cookies and trackers, because you encountered adverts for a BBQ moments after googling for a new one – while our personal information (address, name, family, date of birth, passwords, emails,…) keeps getting requested and subsequently leaked every other minute, is an overcorrection. Can’t we protect our personal information without giving up the hyper customization the internet offers?

Let me admit that, like everyone else, I block all unnecessary cookies and permissions on all apps and websites. I have fallen down the rabbit hole of privacy, I’m only a couple of steps away from accessing the internet only through a virtual machine on a server in Iceland that I access only via a VPN and a Tor browser, running exclusively on a USB stick with Tails OS. (Iceland has great privacy protection laws).
But, I’m just weird like that.

I want to protect my identity and personal information. But I have no issue with receiving specific ads that cater to my weird quirks or latest google searches. As an entrepreneur, my online business heavily relies on the effectiveness of well targeted ads. The alternative (now our reality), is going back to a world of broad one-for-all type advertising. Car, beer and dating commercials galore!

Let’s be real

We can stop cookies and tracking all we want, but we will never be able to stop advertising. Unless people start actually paying for things online. So why not make it at least a little customized to our needs?

Although the aggregate of all our internet usage might be able to paint an accurate picture of the kind of person we are and in which part of the world we live, it doesn’t even come close to the actual real personal information that is out there.

Sim cards track our movements constantly, regardless of airplane mode and even with the phone turned off. Which has been used against several fugitives and the people present at the USA Capitol riots. ALL WiFi networks are listed on google-maps-esque sites with a scary exactness of the position of the router. When you create a WiFi hotspot on your phone, it automatically logs the location and can be found on those maps. Check this video that tells you why Snowden doesn’t use WiFi.

Governments like the EU force companies (banks, telecom providers,…) to ask for accurate personal details from their customers (Know Your Customer – KYC). But, those companies are not required to keep their security up to a high standard. Currently my personal information (name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, passwords…) has leaked several times from hacks to various platforms! Exposing me to possible hacks of my own email accounts, social media, payment providers, banks, SIM swapping, identity theft, fraud, blackmail,…

We are concerned about the wrong things

We are so afraid of being followed by ads. But we forget to protect our personal data that can actually be used against us. With your personal details, a hacker can call up your phone company, pretend to be you, bypass some security questions like
“What’s your date of birth? Where were you born? What are the last 4 digits of your bank account or credit card?…”

Having won over the customer service rep, the hacker can then ask for a replacement SIM card of your phone number, called SIM swapping. It allows another person to get access to your text messages, voicemail and phone calls without you knowing it. They use this to bypass security on other platforms. Like, when you login to Amazon or Facebook and the site texts you a code to your phone that you have to fill in on the website.

To make it even simpler for hackers, most people don’t change their passwords and/or login information. Using the same password for all social media accounts, email, banks,… Once one website is hacked, that information is available online for a few bucks. Someone with bad intentions can easily turn your entire life upside down.

As an individual you can protect yourself by getting a passwords manager and adopting a unique, random password for every account you create. You can step it up with randomized email accounts provided by sites like AnonAddy. You can start using pseudonyms instead of using your real name. But all this is like wearing inflatable armbands while in the middle of a storm in the middle of the pacific ocean, it will just make you stand out to the sharks.

Data collection can be our friend

Have you visited Facebook lately? Noticed how it is not as cool as it was before? Besides a change in culture, after all, it’s been over a decade; my hypothesis is that we’ve grown accustomed to algorithm picked media feeds, specifically catered to our interests (Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest,… all show you media from profiles you probably have never heard of). Facebook, can’t really do this. Since it is tied to your friend list, the quality of your feed is dependent on the quality of the posts of your friends.

I’ve realized this while using Pinterest. At first I followed people I knew and I saw a feed of things they pinned. But later on, Pinterest switched to showing me things picked by the algorithm, specifically fit to my tastes. At first I was confused, why am I not seeing my friends anymore? I followed cool people that had great taste! But after a few weeks/months, I grew accustomed to scrolling the front page, filled by the algorithm.

I was horrified when I accidentally landed on the friends feed page again. There was so little I found interesting! As if all of a sudden I realized my friends had awful taste! But in fact, I just grew accustomed to a product with higher potency.


Remember the world before the internet? Ever seen a billboard outside or a TV commercial lately? A random product shoved in your face that you have absolutely no desire for. Yea, that’s what we’re going to turn the internet into again. Instead of having advertisements shown, catering to whatever niche cat grooming ritual you have, Richard. We’re going to show everyone car, beer and dating adverts again. Regardless of whether or not you’re a drunken road hazard that has been unhappily married since high school, Richard! Actually, that might be amazing audience targeting.

Unless we find a way to protect people’s identities AND collect data about their interests, we will destroy one of the greatest economical superpowers for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and influences we have yet seen.


All this, in the name of being spooked by an ad for a recent google search.

The wrong thing scares us. Ideally, we’d completely remove personal information from the internet and adopt a pseudonym standard where everyone’s name is in the same vein as “GeneralButtWipe68”. And allow tracking of internet usage in exchange for a more catered experience.

Institutions like banking or telecom that needs to actually know who you are in order to counteract money laundering, terrorism,… will have to be regulated and audited on their digital security. Even fined when breaches occur.

When Facebook leaked 350+ million users’ data, they didn’t give two shits. They didn’t even notify the affected individuals, let alone warn their entire platform of the breach. Users just had to be lucky to read it in the newspapers and figure it out for themselves if their data was part of the breach or not.

We shouldn’t be afraid of ads. We should be afraid of having to share our personal details with every site, service or product we encounter, without that information being supremely secured.

Working with Raf Simons. How I got to work with one of the world’s biggest fashion designers.

In the last few weeks of 2020 the people behind Raf Simons approached me. If you don’t know Raf, he has worked with Prada, Calvin Klein and Dior. He can count Rihanna, Kanye, Asap Rocky, Drake, Maisie Williams, the XX (to name a few) as his fans. I helped Raf Simons and his team build a B2C Shopify webshop 4 weeks before the deadline of December 15th 2020. Raf Simons’ shop sold out in 3 days.


How did the biggest fashion designer and his team pick me to build the latest prominent part of their business? First of all, before we go further, its luck. Luck, luck, luck. But underneath all that good fortune, are a handful of smart moves and heaps of hard work spread over the past couple of years.

My luck started 10 years ago. When I was 20, I made and sold t-shirts under my own little label called ‘DAWN clothing’. I was young, in need of a creative outlet and some money. Thus, inspired by streetwear brands like Stussy, The Hundreds, Rebel8 and many more – I started my own label.


This is when I first came into contact with B2C (business to consumer) and discovered everything I had to learn. From figuring out how to track stock, VAT, payment solutions, tax-reporting, refunds, webshop platforms and so much more. It’s also the period when I first learned about Shopify, the platform Raf Simons’ team picked for their webshop.

So at 20, I gained some initial experience selling B2C and worked with Shopify. As I grew as an entrepreneur my preference changed. I soon left the t-shirt project behind in order to pursue a career in street-art. Quickly after my switch I picked up some big projects and got the opportunity to work with some mayor brands in the following years. Among others, I worked with Bacardi, Red Bull, Nike and Bombay Sapphire. The experiences taught me how brands want to position themselves. What their wants/needs are and what they absolutely want to avoid. You can say I got some corporate education there.

In between all that, I worked as a teacher in an evening school. I gave an 9 week course on 3D studio Max. Although by now this is 9 years ago, the experience was pleasant and lucrative enough for me to reconsider teaching when the 2020 lockdowns hit.

2020 Lockdowns

March 2020, I saw all my pending projects collapse, almost overnight. With no clear trajectory of how I would generate an income, the idea of switching to teaching popped up. I knew that an effect of the 2008 crisis was that many people went back to some kind of education to increase their chances on a changed job-market. I figured, this time around the same might happen, increasing demand for teachers. So with my previous experience teaching in my back pocket, I looked for new openings. I emailed, they invited me and hired me for a position to teach After Effects (a video editing package).

While I was there, I proposed the idea of starting a Shopify course. Dedicated to teaching people how to quickly set up a new webshop for their business. By now I been running a new Shopify web-store selling stencil caps to graffiti artists. (www.tinypinkstencilcap.com) They liked it and listed the course on their website, alongside my profile as a Shopify expert.

Getting the job

Fast forward from March 2020 to November 2020 – I get an email from a prominent fashion label looking for a Shopify expert. They found my details on the website of the evening school I teach at and ask if I can come by their office to talk about potentially helping them set up a Shopify store. A store already existed but was taken offline after a short period that had some issues.

I went to the interview. I got to talk about everything I had done so far. Running a miniature t-shirt label online, working with big brands as an artist, selling my own invention via a B2C Shopify store and an international B2B network,… They loved it and let me know the next day they wanted to work with me.

What followed were 4 really interesting weeks of working closely with the team surrounding Raf Simons. On 1 or 2 occasions even working with Raf himself.

Sold out in 3 days

Not only did I build their webshop inside Shopify. I also trained their team in how to understand and work with the platform, the payment gateways, customer care solutions, fraud analysis and so on. After careful consideration , we launched the shop with 50 unique items and 3 hand signed books on December 15th 2020. The shop sold all its stock in 3 days. Nobody, not even the CEO or Raf expected the tremendous success.

So what does my history have to do with me working for Raf Simons? Everything and nothing. This project was a lucky one-email-overnight-success a decade in the making.

Now I ask you, what are you working on today that might pay off 10 years from now?

– Matthew Dawn