Pro-privacy apps that are easy to use and don't break your workflow

Software tools I recommend.

It’s likely that you’ve had at least one person urge you to use software or apps that respect your privacy and that you shouldn’t trust the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and more. However, privacy-respecting software tools often aren’t easy to use and don’t fit into your workflow without friction. As a person who likes software with good defaults, I agree.

But I care about my privacy too, which is why I spend a lot of time trying multiple pro-privacy tools to find ones which just work. Here’s a non-exhaustive list that fits my needs as a science writer.

Operating Systems

If you’re getting rid of tracking, swap the whole machine, or the OS it runs.

Desktop/Laptop

An Apple Mac is an obvious pro-privacy replacement for Windows that just works. But it’s not affordable by everyone. Linux is the next best choice.

Many consider installing and using Linux a daunting endeavor. But these days Linux is easy to install, works on plenty of hardware combinations out of the box, has a reasonably large selection of apps and doesn’t require you to touch the command line. I don’t recommend Ubuntu anymore and instead suggest you use elementary OS, Pop_OS or Linux Mint for a well-rounded experience.

Smartphone

Again, if you can afford it, buy an iPhone. It’s far more privacy respecting than Google’s Android will ever be.

If not, or you just prefer Android, get a phone with stock Android (the likes of Nokia, Motorola, Pixel, etc.) rather than ones with custom UIs (Xiaomi, Samsung, OnePlus, etc.). This reduces your system level privacy invasion to just one company i.e. Google.

A deal with Google, the devil, is practically unavoidable if you’re using an Android. You may consider installing LineageOS on your phone to get rid of excessive Google tracking. But camera performance and/or other critical features typically take a hit on such custom ROMs so beware.

Browser

Given the sheer amount of time people spend on browsers, changing that instead would perhaps be more effective and practical than swapping an operating system. And for that, just go for Firefox.

Firefox works incredibly well both on the Desktop and mobile platforms, blocks invasive trackers by default, has useful features like sync, excellent support for add-ons, and generally boasts enhanced privacy out of the box. You can import bookmarks, history and saved passwords from other browsers.

If you are using an Apple device, Safari has similar benefits as Firefox and is quite swift and nice. I use both.

Apps

  1. DuckDuckGo over Google search—No tracking, period. And you’ll love the bangs!

  2. Telegram over WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger—It has excellent Desktop apps that you can never go back from.

  3. ProtonMail and Fastmail over Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo. If you really want Gmail, use G Suite instead for relatively less tracking than standard Gmail and more features.

  4. OnlyOffice over MS Office and Google Docs—It’s fast, opens office files in tabs instead of windows, works offline and is available on both the Desktop and phones.

  5. SSDs/Hard Drives over Google Drive and Dropbox for data backups, because nothing beats the reliability, speed and security of a local backup. Like, seriously.

  6. Simplenote over Google Keep and Evernote—Available on all platforms and is no fuss to use. If on an Apple device, nothing beats Apple Notes.

With such privacy-respecting software as easy to use as any other, you should care about your digital footprints. And it’s not because you don’t have “Nothing to hide”, but because your privacy is tied to your individuality.

Giant tech corporations have been abusing our privacy for monetary and political gains, and it must stop. Or we lose who we are.


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