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The Best Privacy-Friendly Services & Apps Of 2020 (September Update)

Here are my recommended private and secure services. I’ve chosen services that are reasonably easy to use and don’t require deep technical knowledge.

If you need more information on these services, pleases see the other articles on this site.

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)

  • For all-round speed and reliability I recommend: ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands)
  • I recommend these VPN routers: FlashRouters

Private Email

  • I recommend this provider for encrypted email: ProtonMail (Switzerland)
  • I recommend this provider for everyday private email: FastMail (Australia)

Private Cloud Services

  • The best personal encrypted cloud service: Sync (Canada)
  • A personal cloud that offers both encryption and non-encrypted file storage: pCloud
  • The best encrypted cloud service based in Europe: Tresorit (Switzerland)
  • A good private music cloud: Vox (USA)

Ad-Blockers

Passport Manager & Multi-Factor Authentication

  • The best encrypted cloud-based password manager: Bitwarden (USA or self-hosted)
  • OTP Auth is an authenticator app with a focus on data privacy

Virus & Malware Detection

Web Browsing

Usenet Services

  • The best usenet provider: Newsdemon
  • The best usenet search engines with open registration: NZB.SU (USA) or NZBGeek (USA)
  • A reliable usenet client: SabNZBd
  • The best automatic usenet downloaders: Sonarr and Radarr

Torrents

eBook and Audiobook Downloads

Instant Messaging

  • A chat app with end-to-end encryption: Element
  • A mobile app for encrypting phone calls and messages: Wire (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • An open-source instant messenger app: Pidgin (Linux, Mac, Windows)

DNS (Domain Name Service)

  • The most private and decentralized DNS: OpenNic
  • An ad-blocking DNS: AdGuard DNS
  • A reasonably private, adult-content blocking DNS: OpenDNS

File & Disk Encryption

  • I recommend this app for file encryption: AES Crypt
  • For encrypted files in a cloud drive: Cryptomator
  • For disk encryption: Veracrypt (fork of TrueCrypt)
  • For encrypted file syncing (computer to computer): SyncThing

Cryptocurrencies

  • I recommend these cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (pseudo-anonymous), Monero (mostly anonymous)
  • For purchasing cryptocurrencies with USD: Coinbase
  • Best cryptocurrency hardware wallet: Trezor
  • Best decentralized exchange: Uniswap

Media Players and Managers

  • The best media manager/streamer: Plex
  • The best command-line YouTube downloader: youtube-dl
  • The best Youtube downloading app: MediaHuman YouTube Downloader
  • A reliable video and audio player: MPV (lightweight and fast loading) or VLC (more features and bit more robust)
  • A free multi-platform audio player: foobar2000

Media Converters

Operating Systems

Here are some other guides to private software:

Comments 28

  1. Hi !
    I wanna share with you the system I’ve been testing for some time now and its awesome.
    It’s Kodachi 7.4 The Secure OS.

    Linux Kodachi operating system is based on Xubuntu 18.04.5 it will provide you with a secure, anti-forensic, and anonymous operating system considering all features that a person who is concerned about privacy would need to have in order to be secure.

    Kodachi is very easy to use all you have to do is boot it up on your PC via USB drive then you should have a fully running operating system with established VPN connection Tor Connection established DNS crypt service running. No setup or Linux knowledge is required from your side its all been automated for you. The entire OS is functional from your temporary memory RAM so once you shut it down no trace is left behind all your activities are wiped out.

    Kodachi is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

    Use the Internet anonymously.
    All connections to the Internet are forced to go through the VPN then Tor network with DNS encryption.
    Leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly.
    Use state-of-the-art cryptographic and privacy tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

    Some features:
    Onion Circuits/Onion share
    Random Mac Generator
    RAM Wiping
    Built in secure Web Browser (I prefer Tor Browser)
    Built-In VPNs from different providers your own if you wish
    i2p,GNUNET
    Mymonero, Electrom BTC wallet
    DNS Crypt, with many other dns options
    Multi Tor exit node changer with eye country exclude feature
    Multi DNS options – Love this option ! Works Great with Tor Browser
    Stacer linux tuner
    Rkhunter/Nuke os or device
    Sync thing/Session messenger/Stegehide-GUI
    Wipe Ram/Wipe Free Space/USB Guard/USB Kill/Kill and Nuke OS!
    Bleach bit/Nautilus-wipe/KeepassXC/Seahorse/Gpa/Gnupg2/Enigmail/ufw/gufw/fire jail
    Geany/Meld/Shutter/Flotilla/Audicity/Terminator/Transmission, Mat
    Htop/Rdesktop/Gksu/Nadu/Xtrlock/Nmap/McManus/Cairo-dock/Geoip-bin/MPV/Iridium-browser/tenta
    Disper/Smbclient/Syslinux-utils/Fcitx/Ibus/Pidgin-Otr/ Coyim/wire/Bettergram/noisy/Element/Demon saw
    Zulu crypt/Zulu mount/Signal/SiriKali/Deny hosts/Steghide/GnomeNettool/Resolver/OpenS hot
    System and Security Info on Desktop with Panic room unique tools

    Especially Zulu crypt simple, lightweight feature rich and powerful solution for hard drives encryption is my favourite can work with True crypt, Vera crypt containers. Linux Only !
    Plus Tor Exit Node Script allow you to choose the county of Exit node. You can exclude Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, 14 Eyes Counties.

    What do You think about it ?
    Wait for comments.

    PS. One of my the precisions is to use multiple layers of encryption (Tor !). So In Zulu (or VeraCrypt/TrueCrypt) container
    I keep sensitive file encrypt another layer like GPG for example.

  2. Good information! So many tools in one place. Thanks.. I basically use Hushmail and web browser Tor. And I have one more tool not from your list,, for single files security I downloaded free encryption software Nordlocker (https://nordlocker.com), that is very easy to use

  3. Why Fastmail? Crypto-hating, FVEY-loving Australia? What’s next, Runbox (because their whole country is secure)? 🙁

    I like Brave as a second browser, but if Libre Browser turns out to be decent, I could be tempted to move on.

    On your Media Converters section, consider pandoc – it’s a great document format converter.

  4. I would like to recommend WishSimply.com for the privacy friendly wishlist service. E.g. over the Amazon wishlist. Perhaps to your cloud services section, where is also Bitwarden listed.

    Otherways a few comments other topics.

    I have been using also Elementary in several laptops. Installed it to mine and my children’s from usb stick. No problems with drivers. My biggest issue with Elementary is that they don’t offer a path from one version to other, but you will need to make the installation again.

    Wire is recommended in many places, but I find that a bit strange as the person behind the project doesn’t have so good record.

  5. Curious about Fastmail as I always understood them to essentially be a US company (despite their HQ being in Australia) and that most of their servers are in the US. Is this no longer the case?

    1. It seems they are still operating out of Australia = see this article

      FastMail announced that it had split from the Norwegian firm Opera Software ASA and became a privately held independent company after its staff purchased the company back

      The main servers are located in New York City and Amsterdam.

    1. Yes, Brave is another browser with useful privacy-friendly features. Soon it will be a complete alternative to Firefox once all the add-ons are fully supported.

      1. Brave is not updated as it is now built on the chrome engine.
        I have been using with these apps
        uBlock Origin
        Privacy Badger
        HTTPS Everywhere
        Cookie Autodelete
        Decentraleyes

  6. Do you have any opinions on good software wallets for cryptocurrency (for the moderately interested user that is dipping their toe in and doesn’t want to spring for Trezor just yet)?

    Thanks, love your site!

    1. For amounts less than $5000 I use Copay, an open-source wallet which works well. It uses multiple signatures which means it allows for multiple accounts and users. It also supports the full Bitcoin Payment Protocol (BIP 0070-0073).

  7. Based on your recommendation, I gave elementaryOS a try. While I think it’s a really interesting project, I found too many weird quirks/bugs to make the switch. ElementaryOS has not hit it’s 1.0 release yet (Loki is a 0.4 release). I think you should consider recommending a more stable Linux distribution for everyday use.

    1. I’m sorry elementaryOS didin’t work out for you. I’ve been using Loki since it came out, and it been very stable for me. Could you let me know the what type of issues came up for you?

      1. The biggest quirk was that out-of-the-box elementaryOS seems to be missing a driver for my MacBook Pro network interface controller. After I live booted my machine with elementaryOS, I set up connection to my wifi and still could not connect to the internet. My network card was not listed using `ifconfig` or `lspci -vnn`. After I plugged in a usb wifi dongle with a ralink wireless card, my wifi automatically connected. There were some other smaller quirks. For example, sometimes after a live boot I cannot open the Epiphany browser. I plan on spending more time with this OS as well as providing my feedback to the elementaryOS community.

        Thanks again for the suggestion. Keep up the good work!

        Also, I would love to hear your feedback on ParrotOS and Ghostery!

        1. Thanks for the details. I’m sure other readers will find your notes useful. Unfortunately, driver issues are continue to be problematic, especially on laptops.

          I bought my machines pre-configured from ThinkPenguin, so I avoided some configuration issues. I also hope to check out some of the other distributions that you mention.

  8. I’ve used Air VPN for several years. Lately I’ve experienced some slowdowns and inconsistent connectivity. When I tried to talk to their support team about it I was told it was “impossible” for ANY errors to occur and that I was “irrelevant” , “stupid”, and “absurd” to even think such a thing. I have read responses to people in the forums that are equally personal and dismissive. Although Air VPN is cheap compared to others you recommend, that low cost comes with a price: no respect for clients and zero customer support. And, given my recent experiences, I now question their reliability. I’ll be switching to another VPN as a result.

    1. Claudia, that doesn’t sounds like a good experience. I will investigate further, and I will change my recommendation if necessary.

  9. Hi,

    Right now, I am using Google Chrome and I have been using these extensions together for quite a while:
    – uBlock Origin
    – Privacy Badger
    – HTTPS Everywhere
    – Cookie AutoDelete
    – Decentraleyes
    – ExpressVPN

    What do you think of the extensions I used and please advice if whether I should add anymore recommended extensions or remove any extensions I am using right now? Thanks so much.

  10. Just curious why you don’t reccomend PIA anymore? My subscription is about to expire… wondering if I need to jump ship to one of these?

    1. I still recommend Private Internet Access (PIA). It is a reliable and inexpensive provider. However, ExpressVPN and IPVanish offer a bit more of a seamless experience, in terms of support, apps and documentation.

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