This is a guide to private-friendly apps and services. I’ve only included reliable and easy-to-use services. They will help you:
Avoid Leaks and Hacks
Reduce the risk of having personal information hacked or leaked
Reduce Information Collection
These apps will block marketing companies from collecting information about you
You’ll also reduce the surveillance of your activities
Private Search Engines
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo record your web searches and link your web searches together.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine with a focus on privacy. It’s not as comprehensive as Google, but it provides good independent results.
As a backup, you can use StartPage which allows you to search privately on Google, Bing or Yahoo.
Private Web Browsers
The Problem: Web browsers like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Safari are not privacy-friendly.
The Solution: Use a secure, open-source web browser like Firefox with privacy-mode turned on.
Alternatively, you can use Chromium, which is an open-source browser similar to Google’s Chrome.
The Problem: Gmail, MS Outlook and Yahoo Mail automatically scan your email.
Fastmail is designed for email privacy not email anonymity. The company states:
- we use encrypted SMTP for sending your mail when the receiving server supports it
- we mandate encrypted access for webmail, IMAP and POP
- we use Perfect Forward Secrecy where possible for all encrypted connections
- we encrypt all email while at rest on our servers
- we encrypt communications between our data centers
For most people Fastmail is good enough. However, if you need extra security, you may want to look into the providers listed below.
More Private — Encrypted Email Providers
ProtonMail is an encrypted email provider based in Switzerland.
Kolab Now is hosted in Switzerland and benefits from the strong Swiss privacy laws. It is run exclusively with free software and using the service supports the development of Kolab Now. Also, it lets you export all your data at any time.
MailDrop is an open-source service that allows you to create temporary emails, thus allow you to control spam. You can give these emails out companies that you don’t yet trust.
Trashmail is similar to MailDrop — but it offers a paid service with additional filtration features.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
The Problem: Your ISP and other organizations can monitor your online activities.
The Solution: Use a virtual private network (VPN) service like ExpressVPN.
Encrypted Cloud Storage
The Problem: Cloud storage providers like Dropbox and Google Drive do not encrypt your files.
The Solution: Use an encrypted cloud storage provider like Seafile.
Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium (you need to set up a new cloud service, and copy files to a new cloud)
It doesn’t make sense to store unencrypted files on a server. It makes them available to company employees and potential hackers.
I recommend Seafile — it’s an open source cloud storage platform cloud provider. All the files you upload to the Seafile cloud are encrypted before they leave your computer, and Seafile never has access to your encryption keys. The price of the service is $10 per month.
Note: Previously, I was recommending SpiderOak, but after further testing I found the apps to be too problematic.
Private Instant Messaging
The Problem: Your text messages are not encrypted and may be recorded.
The Solution: Use Telegram instead — a private messaging application.
Telegram is a messaging app with a focus on speed and privacy. It works for user seeking casual privacy. If you need more privacy than Telegram, see these apps:
Wickr is a free app (iPhone and Android) that allows you to send self-destructing, private messages to your friends. You can send text messages, video and audio messages.
Password managers allow you to create strong, unique passwords for all your website accounts. They can also automatically log you into websites, thus preventing key-logging (attempts to capture your keystrokes and hence your passwords).
An excellent password manager is LastPass which includes a “secure note” feature. The premium version of LastPass costs $12 per year.
Another alternative is Keypass. It’s a free, open source password manager. However, you must do your own file syncing between devices (using your own cloud storage).
Privacy-Friendly Operating Systems
I recommend the Linux operating system. This free OS has many useful privacy features and applications. If you’ve never used Linux before, I recommend using the Elementary OS distribution. It was designed to replicate features found in Windows and OS X.
Linux distributions are maintained by technical users around the world, so they tend to be less vulnerable to malware.
You can get a computer with Linux pre-installed from a vendor such as ThinkPenguin (just tell them to install Elementary OS on your computer).
Privacy-Friendly Mobile Devices
Most mobile devices are not designed with privacy in mind. If you need an extra level of security, you can make use of a device like the Blackphone. This smartphone has it’s own privacy-centric operating system. Thus, the phone does not leak data to a carrier. It has comes with an encrypted phone service, secure messaging and many other security-oriented features. It sells for around $800.
Other Information Sources
- Prism Break provides a well-researched list of software that can help you opt of of surveillance.
- AlternativeTo provides lists of software that can replace your existing software with better, more open substitutes. This well-organized site allows people to vote on the software choices.
- The Best Self Hosted Alternatives provides a list of cloud software that your can run yourself
- The book Data and Goliath (by Bruce Schneier) provides a great overview of the companies and organization tracking you.