privacy matters, and coherence costs
I tried to do a self-examination, reflecting on what matters to me about Privacy.
Being more aware of what you share while browsing the web comes with experience and can be seen as a journey.
No tools will help if you don’t change your approach and habits.
My main motivation to be more privacy-aware was to be more coherent with my way of thinking regarding to ethical use of personal data shared with a third-party.
Meaning that I’m against hidden / unclear ways of exploiting one’s personal data selling it to other companies, make a profit with it, analyzing/mining it in obscure ways etc.
Be it for targeted advertising, online purchases and interests, even psychological manipulation when it comes to public voting etc.
To me, privacy is about consciousness, possibility and choice
Stop paying for X with your privacy.
No conspiracy theories here. Just my thoughts.
Trade-offs are also part of the deal.
E.g. I still use Twitter albeit the points below. Gmail for my historic personal email address from which I’m slowly migrating away.
Twitter mainly to connect with a certain group of people (tech enthusiasts, programmers, marketing and such).
Also to share and discuss ideas & thoughts, technical topics etc.
Tools and mindset
It’s not only about the tools.
To be more privacy-aware on the internet I needed change some of my habits.
Some temporary browsing sessions in incognito mode without shared cookies.
Reduced the number of extensions on my main browser.
Logging out of important and sensitive web services.
The list goes on.
Below you can find some topics I feel sensitive about, and for which I found some more privacy-aware and ethical alternatives.
I’m not an expert. These are just my opinions. If you don’t agree, that’s fine.
More research on Privacy can be found at eff.org.
A small premise: nobody is perfect. I may contradict myself even without noticing.
I try to be as coherent as possible.
Table of contents
- Search engines
- Web browsers
- Operating system
- Website analytics
- Discussion & KB
- Video conferencing
- Useful links
- Final words
Gmail is probably the most widely used email service.
Move away from that.
I like ProtonMail because it allows you to manage your encryption keys, has a pretty simple UI, no fuzz and allows to send and receive secure and encrypted emails.
You can export the default ones, import your own encryption keys etc. All communication is secured with end-to-end encryption. No IP-logs are retained.
Their code is available on GitHub.
Ran a small poll on Twitter and these are the results:
Need a temporary, disposable email?
I have to admit, google search has pretty accurate results, sometimes it’s even scary.
But over time DuckDuckGo has improved a lot, and I’m using it daily with excellent results.
Use Firefox or Brave.
I personally use Firefox and Brave, it comes with
- “Privacy shields” to disable known trackers, scripts, cross-site cookies and trackers
- integrated HTTPS-everywhere
- built-in adblocker (see
- Tor functionality (if you feel so inclined)
- an integrated wallet (see
- Tip, earn and contribute to websites using Brave Rewards using the Basic Attention Token
Privacy Badger automatically learns to block invisible trackers. (source)
To have a decent DNS level blocking of such known sites, I use a Raspberry Pi with pi-hole.
You can check how well your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking techniques on panopticlick.eff.org/.
Use a Nokia 3310.
Kidding (actually, not so much).
Your phone usage and habits are probably the most difficult to change.
It might be the greatest pain point of your privacy since it can be seen as an “extension” of yourself.
You probably have it with you most of the time too.
These phones are even shipping in late May 2020!
Do you remember the FirefoxOS Phone? I remember as I got one for free when Firefox was beta-testing it, and it felt really weird at the time.
With these novel approaches and businesses around privacy-oriented phones I think we are headed in the right direction.
I feel that manufacturers and the community behind are growing year after year.
Use Linux or a Unix-like system.
I think this is very personal and needs research on your part with what you feel comfortable.
Heard some not-so-nice things about Ubuntu too.
Ditch FB, forever. “Delete” your account once and for all, stay in touch with your loved ones in other ways.
If you have Twitter, use nitter.snopyta.org to stay up to date what’s going on. Self-hosting is also possible, even local with a Docker image.
Mastodon could be an alternative, not necessarily for your relatives but for personal use and to connect with the community on a certain instance.
There are various ones I signed up for like unfiltered news sources and thematic instances of interest.
Also here, don’t use them.
Just link with an anchor tag to your profile, if you have a follow button or these sort of things on your webpage.
Try to avoid Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger if you can.
Telegram could also be fine, if you enable secret chats, those are end-to-end encrypted. A dear user on Reddit made some valid points regarding this.
So it’s a difficult matter, right now I’m using Signal and Telegram. Let’s see what the future holds.
A recent poll on Twitter, here the results:
Are you using Google Analytics on your websites?
If you can, don’t.
Another interesting analytics service is fathom analytics.
Don’t use a free VPN. A few links to bring the point home:
Definitely use ProtonVPN.
No user logs or data shared with third parties.
Alternatively, self-host a VPN with Algo.
Discussion & KB
Atlassian Suite & Jira, no thanks, if possible.
What else is out there? Let me know @christian_fei.
If you can, avoid YouTube.
They are getting more and more traction over time, maybe one day you can completely watch all your information needs and cat-videos on a platform different than YouTube.
Use invidio.us as an alternative front-end to YouTube instead.
Checkout the source on GitHub for more info.
NewPipe if you’re using Android.
No Google Meet, no Classroom, screw Zoom.
Use jitsi, self-hosted if you feel so inclined.
privacy.com is “a payments product that keeps your personal information private”.
Probably going to look into it in the future.
eff.org is an extremely useful resource for learning more about privacy and much more.
Discovered also spreadprivacy.com by DuckDuckGo.
cookiestatus.com contains different tracking protection mechanisms implemented by browsers.
That’s all from my side.
I try to be aware what I do and share with third-parties as much as possible, although it seems to be getting more difficult every day.
Let me know your opinion and feedback @christian_fei.