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A picture of Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York

Writer, Activist (EFF)

in activist, mac, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm Jillian C. York, and I'm a writer and activist whose work explores the impact of surveillance and censorship on marginalized communities. Most of that work is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and my main project there,, and I also do quite a bit of writing and public speaking.

I've been based in Berlin for the past three years, and I don't think I'll ever love a city more than this one. You can be whomever or whatever you want in Berlin. I love my communities here, and the fact that I can carry a beer wherever I want, and the fact that the city is really pretty diverse when you delve into it.

What hardware do you use?

I just got a souped-up, gently-used 13" MacBook Pro Retina from 2015 and I love it. The screen is amazing, such an upgrade from the ca. 2012 13" Air that I'd been using. The speakers are also decent, which is important to me - I spend a lot of time traveling and a lot of time listening to music... and I don't have the space to carry a speaker.

My phone is a 1-year-old iPhone SE (rose gold); I switched over after years of using Androids. My last two were Sony Xperia Z1s, and I loved them for their ability to take strange night photos, but the screens stop working if you crack them, and I'm clumsy. I really like small phones, though, and wish more designers thought about people like me who have small hands!

At work, I do my listening on a pair of aged Harmon Kardon SoundSticks with a USB-only connection. I love them, and I wish more things were so oddly crafted. I use Apple's standard earbuds, ever since Phillips discontinued my favorite in-ear headphones. Ideally, I'd use over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, but my sometimes-angry ear piercings won't let me.

I'm also a really big fan of paper. My partner and I are both really into Post-Its, which you can find all over my walls, inside my notebooks, and on pretty much every inappropriate surface you could imagine. My notebook is a Leuchtturm1917 - dotted and hardcovered. It's apparently great for bullet journaling, which I always try to start but end up just scribbling things in my usual way. And I'm very picky about pens: The Uni-ball Vision Elite has been my go-to for a decade now.

My house is mostly pretty low-tech... no microwave, television, or sound system. If it weren't for my Bluetooth-enabled smart lightbulb, you might be able to enter my flat and imagine yourself in a different decade entirely :)

And what software?

I talk a lot about privacy and occasionally teach people how to use privacy-enhancing technologies, so I'm pretty attached to Tor for safer browsing, KeePassX for secure password storage, and Signal and Wire for communications... Wire in particular is so much fun - there's one friend with whom I play tic-tac-toe pretty frequently with the doodle feature.

I travel a lot, so staying organized is really key - I use Bear for on-the-go writing and note-taking, TripIt Pro for keeping my travel details in one place, and I sync up necessary documents with iCloud.

I've spent a lot of the past couple of years writing music, and have to give some love to GarageBand... I find most of Apple's default software pretty useless, but for an amateur composer with a background in music theory and performance, this is a beautiful piece of software.

What would be your dream setup?

Ooooh - Is it weird that the first item that I think about in my dream setup is the table? I want a huge, handcrafted wooden table in a sunny, window-filled room, with lots of plants (that someone else is in charge of keeping alive) and some sort of fantastic built-in surround sound.

I could (and probably should) integrate some ergonomics into the situation - a better chair, a keyboard to stave off the carpal tunnel, perhaps even a mouse. I don't know why, but these feel like luxury items.

But the pièce de résistance would be the teleportation device tucked into the corner that would allow me to meet with anyone whenever I want... and would allow me to avoid flying forevermore!