A simple and effective guide to online privacy
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A simple and effective guide to online privacy

Written by Pranav Chakkarwar on 17 Jul 2021 • 5 minutes to read

What is the essence of online privacy?

Most individuals are unaware that simple activities on the internet can have far-reaching consequences in the real world. Big internet companies have already invested millions in building server farms that run AI bots to monitor and analyze your emails, phone records, texts, and everything else you can think of. Believe me when I say, they know you better than you know yourself. This problem has already been discussed in one of my other posts Why is privacy important?

This is not a comprehensive list; if you know of a useful device or service, please share it in the comments section.

Start with the right Hardware

For Laptops and desktops, I would recomend purchasing from System 76. They deliver with Open source POP OS (Linux), Intel management engine disabled and mostly everything in here is open source.

For Mobile devices, Buy an Android phone (more on that later) and strictly stay AWAY from apple devices. Pinephone is also an option if you have the money to try something new.

Install a great operating system

Linux was once tough to use, but if you install it today, you may find it to be really simple. Many applications, such as the Adobe suite and games, are still incompatible with Linux. However, if you are a typical user who mostly uses a web browser, you should be alright. If you can’t use Linux because of a compatibility issue or another reason. Try dual booting Linux with other operating systems then using Linux for private work. Encrypting the drive while installing Linux is always a wise decision.

For Android phones, flash it with the AOSP (Android open source project). I recommend buying a Pixel phone and installing Graphene or Calyx OS on it. If you are already using android, try to locate an open source ROM for your current phone on XDA Forums. If you still can’t live without Google, consider MicroG rather than the GApps package (Google Apps).

Social networks

It will be difficult for you to substitute a social network because all of your friends and relatives are already wasting their time on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. You may find it difficult to replace Facebook or Instagram ,but one day you will do it. Maybe today? Also try using Mastodon.

For one to one communication you can go with

  1. Session
  2. Signal
  3. DO NOT USE TELEGRAM (It’s not E2EE by default)
  4. The Matrix Network

Search engines

You are using google to get good search results that are relevant to you because everytime you search on google, it’s recorded and used for you. Google provides many such free services that rely on collecting user data and creates a profile. This profile is used to show so called relevant search results and show you ads. This is not a problem if you search to find What does a cat look like? It’s not going to show you an picture of a dog. But, when you search for subjective topics (e.g. politics). Your profile may be used to show you information that you already believe in. For e.g. If you are a flat earth believer (By the way, The earth is not fu*king flat and google knows it) but it will still keep showing flat earth videos to keep you engaged on youtube and earn from the ads.

What are some alternatives?

  1. Brave Search
  2. Searx
  3. Qwant
  4. DuckDuckGo
  5. Startpage

There are many more to explore. Just don’t google it to find one. 😂

Email services

It’s crucial to pick the correct email provider because even if you sign up for an email that doesn’t have any personal data attached to it, it’s still significant. Your email may ultimately become more valuable than your phone number as you utilize it more.

  1. ProtonMail
  2. Tutanota
  3. StartMail
  4. Posteo

Don’t forget to deploy an Email alias service with your new email account. This will protect you from unintentional spam, automatic tracking, and if a company’s database is leaked, your original email address or other aliases will remain protected.

  1. Anonaddy
  2. SimpleLogin

Phone number

In terms of phone number privacy, it depends on which country you live in. Purchasing a phone number without a valid ID is not possibe in many countries.

Protect internet traffic

Still figuring out the best ways…

Try to stay away from these companies

I understand that abandoning a service or a device is difficult, but try to avoid these companies if possible (at least for your personal accounts or hardware).

  1. Facebook and acquisitions by Facebook. Includes Instagram and Whatsapp.

  2. Any companies that operate under Alphabet including all Google services.

  3. Strictly stay away from the Apple Ecosystem. Because —> Apple Is Terrible for Your Privacy.

  4. Microsoft devices and the Windows OS or any other Microsoft products.

  5. Everything from Amazon retail to Amazon web services.

To put it simply,

Use FOSS (Free and open source software) and avoid any Digital Ecosystems.

Additional resources and alternative software apart from this guide.

Find privacy friendly alternatives to the existing services that you use. PrivacyTools.io provides services, tools and knowledge to protect your privacy against global mass surveillance.

  1. Privacy Guides.
  2. AlternativeTO (Use the open source filter).

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