There’s so many apps and web services available that it’s hard to know what to use. This list of apps and services has been compiled with a few principles in mind; they are mostly free and open source (the code is public for everyone to inspect), or the company that makes them values the security and privacy of their users.
Maybe you are looking for something specific, maybe something more ethical or maybe you are just looking for alternatives to the big corporate data-sucking giants like Google, Facebook & Microsoft. Either way, I hope you find this list useful and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch.
It’s easy to use Google Chrome, but not necessarily best. Not only is Chrome sucking up your computer’s resources, but also your personal data. Google make big money off what they know about you.
Try using something different. Firefox was rated Best Browser of 2019 by Top Ten Reviews and is made by a company that don’t want to harvest your data. Here’s two flavours of Firefox;
As you browse the web, there are companies like Facebook and Google that will track your activity. So will hundreds of advertisers. Improve your privacy by installing these extensions:
Privacy Badger — works out which companies are tracking you as you use the web and blocks them.
When Google arrived on the scene it was great. To be honest, Google is still pretty great at delivering search results. However, Google used to have the tag line “Don’t be evil” and had to drop it because it’s hard to follow when you are a corporate giant and industry monopoly that doesn’t pay your taxes.
Fortunately, there are a few alternatives. They might be a bit different to how Google looks or feels, but even if you use them for some or most of your searches – that’s better than using Google for everything.
Ecosia — the search engine that promises to use 80% of it’s profits each month to plant trees around the world. Great for the environment.
Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are all owned by Facebook who make money out of tracking what you do online and who you speak to. Snapchat, Telegram and some others don’t offer good levels of privacy as default.
Switching to a new messaging app is hard because quite often you sign up and realise none of your best friends use the app. Try installing one of these apps and keep it on your phone or computer so that the friends who do want a more privacy-focused experience can have one:
Gossip Land — I made my own chat server and you can join it. Just drop me a message and I’ll help you get set up.
Signal Messenger — free, encrypted messaging, voice and video calling.
It’s good practice to ensure that every single web service you sign up for uses a unique, strong, lengthy password. However, remembering so many passwords can be a pain in the ass.
Paid services like LastPass and 1Password are good for this problem, but you can also do this yourself with the following free and open source apps. And if you keep your password database in a syncing service like OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. then you can access your passwords on all your devices.
Keeweb — a comprehensive and nice looking password manager. Has a built-in password generator.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
There are a few reasons why you might want to start using a VPN; to by-pass government censorship, to stop your internet provider from snooping on what you browse online, to do some “illegal” activities like downloading movies, or to fake your location by-pass region locking.
Whatever your reasons, you should find a VPN provider that you trust. All your internet traffic is routed through a new server to give you a layer of anonymity. Here are two recommendations that I currently trust, but be sure to do some research yourself.
AzireVPN — based in Sweden and running 24 servers in 6 countries. Fast, no-log policy, supports file sharing.
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Music & Entertainment
There are a million and one ways to keep your eyes and ears busy on your digital devices, but there are some really nicely designed or incredibly useful apps out there. Here’s a selection:
Vox Music Player — Really nice little music player that allows you to storing your digital collection in the cloud and stream it, in high quality formats, to multiple devices.
However, it is not free and not open-source. 🤷
Some people hate Microsoft Windows. For “the best experience” you are encouraged to allow Microsoft to track a lot of your activity. Users of Apple‘s Mac range fair a little better, but if you want to free yourself from the grips of corporations, maybe a new operating system is for you.
Installing a new operating system can be pretty daunting if you’ve never done it before. Switching to Linux for the first time will be a learning experience – but if all you use your laptop for is the internet, there is no reason why you need to stick with Windows or Mac OS.