jwa Privacy Tools

jwa Privacy Tools

All of these are end-to-end encrypted except the browser addons. All have free versions that anyone can use.

  • ProtonMail
    Secure email. Switzerland-based. They can't see your email, so they can't mine it for advertising opportunities (Google reads all your email). The United States (or other countries) cannot get at your data without going through Swiss courts, which is due process that none of us should object to. Even then, all they have is an encrypted blob.
  • ProtonVPN
    High-speed Swiss VPN that safeguards your privacy. A vendor once told me, "Eventually, you have to trust someone," and that is true, but you get to decide who that will be. I trust ProtonVPN because of how they came into being. You can read their privacy policy (https://protonvpn.com/privacy-policy)
  • Bitwarden
    Open Source password and sensitive information management.
  • Standard Notes
    Standard Notes is a safe place for your notes, thoughts, and life's work. Free, open-source, and completely encrypted.
  • Cryptomator
    Free client-side encryption for your cloud files. Stores encrypted files in DropBox (and others).
  • uBlock Origin
    Allowing web site advertisements on your computer is dangerous. uBlock blocks advertising and more. This browser extension is reliable, easy-to-use, and available for most browsers.
  • Privacy Badger | Electronic Frontier Foundation
    Privacy Badger is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it's like you suddenly disappeared.
    See Also: Privacy Possum
  • Tresorit Send
    Simple, encrypted file sharing.
  • ProtectedText
    Free online encrypted notepad. Honestly, this might be the most secure option of all, and it is the simplest.
  • DuckDuckGo
    A search engine that doesn’t track you. Google is not better. I’ve used DDG for years, and I never need or use Google. Any ads are based on your search terms only, and you see ads only if you want to. No one knows what I search for, and that’s the way it should be.
    Note: Full disclosure - on rare occasions Google's AI for deciding what you are looking for might seem better. For example, if you are looking for, say, "dishonesty" and the current POTUS has just given a big speech, you might get a lot of results from Google about the speech. DDG might be more generic, giving you articles first about psychology or raising kids to be honest followed by hits about the speech, which might be what you want, or not. If you were looking for speech articles, Google's results will seem better. One isn't better than the other--just different. You can search Google through DDG by adding !g to your search terms.

A note about mobile apps

Though it is a significant annoyance in itself, I protect myself from malware and privacy invasion by clearing everything from my web browser after using it, starting fresh every time. It is like brushing your teeth after you eat. You don't want to do it, but you hate the consequences more. It is work, not going to lie, but you get used to it.

Mobile apps, though incredibly convenient and useful, are much worse for privacy and security than accessing the same information using a browser. You can brush your browser's teeth from time to time. You have no clue what an app is doing with your information. You will get (figurative) gum disease and cavities with apps that are a front for data mining (of your personal information).

If you have a choice, use the web browser version of a service rather than an app-based version.

Game apps are particularly bad.

Why I Do This

I do not fit the profile. I fear ignorance that forces the profile to fit me.

Intellectual freedom - Wikipedia

Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas without restriction.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

The leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation.

No matter what I read or what I write in my journal or notes, no matter what web searches I perform, no matter who I associate with or what web sites I visit, no matter what I watch on Netflix or listen to on Spotify, you cannot know what I think--you cannot know what I feel. I'm not saying that it isn't right, I am saying that it is impossible. Even if I tell you what is in my mind, you don’t know and you can’t know. If you think you do, you are making it up, and that scares me because most people are too ignorant to know that they are wrong.

"Ignorant" is not necessarily a derogatory term--we are all ignorant--but being willfully ignorant can cause you to do destructive, hurtful, or ultimately stupid things.

If I decide to do something criminal, I am not going to leave a trail of it on my devices.

I seek to protect myself from ignorance, my own as well as others'.

Should I be presented with a warrant, I will readily and fully turn over whatever is sought because I believe in and respect the justice system of my country, and then I will be at the mercy of people, some of whom will be ignorant and who will misinterpret what they see or who will labor under ignorant beliefs that can hurt me and others.

For example, there is widespread belief in the accuracy of so-called lie detectors, which are no more reliable than reading tea leaves or performing witchcraft. The FBI and police departments actually require that you submit to the lie-detector ritual in order to join up. This astounds me. There is no such thing as mind reading...period, and yet you can be judged by this ignorant, primitive superstition.

Lie detectors: Why they don't work, and why police use them anyway - Vox

Here is an astonishing, eye-opening fact, published by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) on the scientific validity of polygraph “testing” (Scientific Validity of Polygraph Testing, 1983):

“One area of special concern in personnel security screening is the incorrect identification of innocent persons as deceptive. All other factors being equal, the low base rates of guilt in screening situations would lead to high false positive rates, even assuming very high polygraph validity. For example, a typical polygraph screening situation might involve a base rate of guilt of one guilty person (e.g., one person engaging in unauthorized disclosure) out of 1,000 employees. Assuming that the polygraph is 95 percent valid, then the one guilty person would be identified as deceptive but so would 50 innocent persons. The predictive validity would be about 2 percent. Even if 99 percent polygraph validity is assumed, there would still be 10 false positives for every correct detection.”

There are many more problems with the polygraph, but is not this single problem enough? I'm betting that extremely few people have ever encountered those words. I bet the FBI has, yet they require the polygraph procedure as a condition of employment. What does that tell you?

The "lie detector" is only a single example of the damage that can be done when ignorance is allowed to influence judgment. I'm trying to keep that away from me.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods."

—Albert Einstein

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