Privacy for The Common Person Pt. 3

With the deck stacked so far against the privacy of common people, how do we protect our privacy? The short answer is that we can't. The level of tracking is too pervasive. If you carry a phone, shop in a store, drive a car, or walk in your neighborhood, aspects of your life are being tracked without any way to opt out. However, you can protect the privacy of some of your activities. 

Web Browsing - By virtue of browsing the web are leaving a trail of data. This trail can be minimized (but not eliminated) in several ways.

  • Use a more privacy friendly browser like Brave, Firefox or even Safari. These browsers all have some level of anti-tracking tech that works marginally well. 

  • Use a VPN. This is one for the more tech savvy and is of dubious benefit (funny video) but yes a VPN will help shield your actual IP address. If you are browsing from your home wifi a vpn hides the IP address of your home network, if on a mobile phone it will hide the actual IP address of mobile device.

  • Use an ad-blocker - I don't use ad-blockers but they are also a viable option

Email - Use an email service that protects your privacy.  Gmail and Yahoo mail are not the droids you are looking for here.  Some options are below:

  • Protonmail - Protonmail is an encrypted email service located in Switzerland.  It is the gold standard of privacy protection. They have zero access to your data since it is end to end encrypted. However, your mileage may very when sending emails to non protonmail addresses.

  • Tutanota - Tutanota is also a very popular encrypted email service.  It is located in Germany which is slightly less of a privacy preserving country. They also have zero access to your data due to end to end encryption.

Messaging - Messaging is so pervasive now, having a privacy preserving messenger is almost more important than encrypted email.  Some options are below:

  • Whatsapp - Don't use it.  Screw whatsapp!

  • Slack - If you use it for work use it. For personal use you should avoid it.  They have access to your data.

  • Telegram - Maybe use it.  I do not fully trust it because they have claimed to roll their own encryption instead of using open standards. This makes their service a black box of is it secure or isn't it.

  • imessage - Imessage is end to end encrypted by default and supports normal SMS messaging (green bubble).  This is what many people use and it is probably "good enough" from a privacy perspective.  However, if you don't trust Apple move along.

  • Signal - Signal is the app you want for private and secure messaging. Very similar to Protonmail it is the gold standard of privacy.  It isn't as pretty as imessage but it's userbase is growing daily and it is trusted by most journalists, activists, whistleblowers and unfortunately, criminals.  It also supports unencrypted text messaging.

  • Keybase - Keybase uses an interesting model of social proofs to validate that you are you.  It also uses that buzzword known as blockchain.  Keybase is a very secure service and provides fully encrypted chat and file storage. Think of it as an secure version of slack with fewer features.

There are many other chat apps, email services, and web browsing tips.  These are just a few of my random tips for today. They key point here is to find a service that can be trusted and to stick with it. I could literally go on for hours and hours.  Until next time...


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