The internet has become an increasingly hostile environment for people concerned about their privacy. Every website you visit seems to be tracking your behavior on their sites and trying to learn as much as possible about you. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon make millions every year because they collect and analyze data about people like you.
The Best Privacy Tools
There are literally hundreds of privacy tools to choose from, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to choose which tools you need. If you only want the best of the best, these tools are widely regarded as some of the best internet privacy tools available.
Tor stands for The Onion Router. Tor is a network of volunteer-run servers, that helps anonymize your browsing by redirecting it through this network.
The Tor Project is a lineup of software that you can use to protect your identity online. Its goal is to defend users against tracking and surveillance and helping them circumvent censorship.
Signal is an encrypted messaging app that makes it much more difficult for your mobile service provider, mobile OS, or government surveillance agencies to view your communications.
ProtonMail is an encrypted email provider that uses encryption to keep the contents of your emails private.
Your browser acts as your gateway for all of your browsing. If your browser has a security vulnerability or a privacy issue, it can compromise information about your browsing. Google Chrome, while it offers a number of convenient features, lets Google essentially see all of your internet activity.
Mozilla Firefox is an established name in the browser world, but it has recently added a number of new privacy features. Safari offers a great experience for Mac users with its built in features, but most of these can be achieved in Firefox using browser add-ons.
Brave is a newer, security-focused browser. It includes built-in ad blocking and tracker blockers to help speed up the browser and prevent websites from tracking you.
Brave includes a cool feature that can actually give you money for browsing different websites. It’s called Basic Attention Tokens which it gives you in exchange for viewing ads in place of the ads it blocks. Brave has faced criticism for being an “ad injector” due to this feature, but overall the browser has received positive reviews.
Read More: Brave Browser Review
Tor Browser uses the Tor network of anonymous, volunteer-run servers to keep your browsing private by keeping your IP address hidden. Tor helps prevent websites from identifying you by your IP address and makes it difficult for sites or your ISP to monitor your browsing behavior from site-to-site.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Virtual private networks help protect your privacy on the internet by redirecting your connection through a series of “virtual” servers located around the world. VPNs work by making it appear to the sites you visit that you are coming from a different location than your local IP address. It can be hard to identify a reliable VPN, when there are so many different options that don’t take user-privacy seriously.
Anonine‘s VPN uses modern protocols like OpenVPN, IPsec IKEv2 and L2TP/IPsec to help keep your browsing secure. Anonine has a strict no-logs policy so it won’t know anything about your browsing or other internet behavior. You can also use Anonine to get a public IP address, which can improve your experience with online gaming or other applications.
ExpressVPN is not the most private in this list, but it is definitely one of the most widely used VPNs available today. It doesn’t adhere to as strict of a no-logging policy as the rest of these VPNs, but when it comes to user-experience and easy of use ExpressVPN is top notch.
ProtonVPN is a VPN service from the same company that makes ProtonMail. It’s no logging policy and high level encryption methods made it a good choice for anyone concerned with protecting their data on the internet. ProtonVPN directs all traffic through a “Secure Core” network which helps keep you anonymous even if an endpoint server is compromised.
Tunnelbear is a privacy-friendly VPN. It provides fast connection speeds, easy to use applications and a number of unique features that other VPN services don’t provide. One of the downfalls of this VPN is that it doesn’t work for streaming on Netflix. If you’re using a VPN to stream content from other countries or locations, another VPN is a better choice.
Private Search Engines
Ghostpeek is a private search engine that was launched in 2019. It’s a newer addition to this list but is already helping its users keep their search terms confidential.
Startpage has been around for over two decades. Over that time it has established a large and loyal user base. Startpage sources its results from Google which makes it a good option for anyone who prefers Google results, but doesn’t want to give up their personal information.
Qwant is a search engine based in France. It has its own indexing engine which means that it doesn’t have to send your searches to another search engine to source your results. In addition to protecting your privacy, Qwant also takes measures to eliminate “filter bubbles”.
DuckDuckGo is by far the most well-known privacy-focused search engine. It recently passed 50 million daily searches. Its founder Gabriel Weinberg has established himself as an expert in the privacy space. DuckDuckGo has added more products as its popularity has grown. It now offers a browser extension that blocks trackers and lets users know how many trackers are running on each website they visit. DuckDuckGo also has a mobile app that brings private search to Android and iOS users.
Password Management Tools
Passwords are often the last line of defense when keeping other people from accessing your accounts or private information online. These tools can help you generate long, complex passwords and then store them so you don’t have to remember multiple passwords. The best password management tools store your passwords locally, or in an encrypted file, and not on the cloud.
LastPass is a password tool available as an app and as a browser extension. With the mobile app, all you have to do to log in to a service that LastPass has stored the password for is use your fingerprint or passcode to auto-fill your passwords. Your passwords are protected with AES-256 encryption and is encrypted locally so you don’t have to share your master password or encryption key with LastPass.
LessPass is a slightly different type of password manager. It works by using the site, your login and a master password to generate your passwords. This means that you never have to send your passwords to your server or store them on your device. The program’s algorithm will create and generate the password for you.
Private Messaging Apps
Private messaging apps are much better than email when it comes to communicating privately. These messaging services use encryption to keep anyone from seeing your messages besides you and the intended recipient.
Signal is an app created by Whisper Systems to encrypt your communications. It works for private text, voice, and video chats. Signal uses an open source encryption engine so that people can verify the company’s privacy claims. It’s supported by privacy advocates because it works on most mobile and desktop platforms and requires just basic technology knowledge.
Telegram offers end-to-end encryption and is widely considered one of the most secure messaging platforms available. The app offers an even more private mode called “Secret Chats” for anyone who wants the highest level of privacy protection available. One of Telegram’s features that sets it apart is the ability to delete messages completely out of a conversation. This way if the conversation is also on another user’s device, you can still be sure that the message is gone.
All secret chats in Telegram are device-specific and aren’t part of the Telegram cloud which means that the messages are only available on your device and the device that the recipient uses to first open the message.
Secure Operating System
Operating systems like Mac and Windows are convenient because they are so widely used. However, because they have so many users they are the most commonly hacked and compromised operating systems. These operating systems are much more privacy-friendly and because they have fewer users, hackers are less likely to spend time and effort trying to crack them.
Linux is the best known and most widely used open-source operating system. Because it’s open-source the inner workings and functionality is totally transparent. Another benefit to using Linux is that there are multiple distributions, some of which are specifically designed for privacy. These versions operate in a “live” mode which means that no data is written on your hard drive.
Tails is a live operating system, recommended by Edward Snowden. It can be run on your computer just by plugging in a USB drive with the system installed. This way when you’ve finished using a device you can simply unplug the drive and there will be no trace of your use of the computer.
These tools are just a selection of a huge range of privacy tools. While there is certainly more you can do to protect your privacy when using the internet, this list is a good place to start.