Privacy apps that just work and don’t break your workflow

Me when choosing software. Credit: Jatan Mehta, released under CC BY-SA 4.0

It is likely that you’ve had at least one person tell you to use software tools/apps that respect your privacy and that you shouldn’t trust Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. However, the problem is that privacy-respecting software tools often aren’t easy to use and don’t fit into your workflow easily.

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-complete list, that fits my needs as a science writer.

Operating Systems

Desktop/Laptop

An Apple Mac is an obvious replacement for Windows but it’s not affordable by everyone.

Many consider using Linux a daunting task. But these days Linux is easy to install, works on a lot of hardware out of the box, has a reasonably large selection of apps and doesn’t require you to touch the command line. I recommend you to install the elementary OS, Linux Mint or Pop_OS in that case.

Smartphone

Get a phone with stock Android (Nokia, Motorola, Pixel, etc.) rather than with custom UIs (Xiaomi, Samsung, OnePlus, etc.) to reduce your OS privacy invasion to one company i.e. Google.

If you can afford it, buy an iPhone as it’s definitely more privacy respecting than Google’s Android ever will be. However, on an Android, you may consider installing LineageOS on your Android phone, which works the same as any Android phone but comes without excessive Google tracking. Downsides are that camera performance and/or features typically take a hit on these custom ROMs.

Browser

Given the sheer amount of time people spend on browsers, changing it would be perhaps more of a transformative decision than an operating system. And for that, just go Firefox. 

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

Apps

  1. DuckDuckGo over Google search — 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 and Outlook. If you really want Gmail, go G Suite instead for relatively lesser tracking and more features.
  4. OnlyOffice over MS Office and Google Docs — It’s fast, opens office files in tabs, works offline and is available on both the Desktop and phones.
  5. SSDs/Hard Drives over Google Drive and Dropbox for backups — because nothing beats the reliability, speed and security of a local backup. No, seriously.
  6. Simplenote over Google Keep and Evernote —Works on all platforms and is no fuss to use.

With such privacy-respecting software as easy to use as any other, you should care about your digital footprints. And that’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.

creative commons image Article published under the freedom-respecting Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0, minus any media file(s) credited independently.

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