Data is one of the most valuable resources available.
For better or for worse, data collection methods aren’t going anywhere. To be practical, we need all kinds of data to analyze, study and learn things.
Of course, this also creates the risk of exploiting the collected data, such as attackers getting hold of your web browsing data (or internet activity).
Although data collection methods have improved over time (such as anonymous collection methods), they may not be entirely privacy friendly.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert to protect your privacy.
There are some simple tools to improve privacy without compromising user experience. And best of all, you don’t have to spend time researching these options like there’s no tomorrow.
Here I am highlighting such simple tools to easily protect your online privacy.
Essential tools to improve online privacy
The best way to protect your data is to focus on the settings you interact with most.
While you have every right to be paranoid, you shouldn’t forget about practical use cases.
For example, it’s pointless to choose a decentralized messenger that none of your friends/family use and end up using WhatsApp most of the time.
So, we list some of the options that you can easily try without much effort, categorizing them as:
Open source web browsers for privacy
From banking to accessing social media, a web browser has you covered.
If you choose a web browser that offers good security and solid privacy features, you end up having to worry about a few things.
Among our top picks for web browsers, some recommendations include:
1. Tor browser
Tor Browser is a free and open source browser with robust privacy features. This is a customized version of Firefox.
It uses the Tor network to connect, routing your internet requests through multiple points, hiding your IP address and location.
When you browse a website/service through the Tor browser, it is almost impossible to track you.
However, web browsing can be incredibly slow. So, if you’re willing to compromise, Tor Browser might be the perfect choice.
Firefox is probably the most impressive open source browser out there. No wonder I keep coming back to it.
It includes some of the best privacy protection features and often sets new industry standards for online security.
You can install some of the best open source apps and adjust the settings to further improve your privacy protection.
Brave is one of the best browsers available for Linux. It offers a clean user experience and is a bit like Chrome.
Starting with tracking protection and aggressive tracker blocking out of the box, Brave can be a solid option.
You can learn more about its benefits and trade-offs in our Brave vs. Firefox comparison article.
VPN services for increased privacy
A VPN (virtual private network) helps protect your overall Internet connection, whether you’re using a computer or a smartphone.
It also hides your original IP address, location and unblocks access to any restricted and censored content.
While there are many privacy-focused VPN services out there, we’ll list a few here:
ProtonVPN is an impressive privacy-focused service with open source software for desktop and mobile.
You can use it for free, but you need to upgrade your subscription to access features like malware blocking and tracker protection. It also offers bundled subscription plans with ProtonMail.
Mullvad also offers an open source client and is an interesting VPN service that does not require an email to sign up.
All you need to do is create a user ID and pay for your subscription using cryptocurrency/credit card.
Private search engines to keep your online activity safe
What you search for online will say a lot about you and your work.
Data about your search activity can be used by criminals to easily lure you into scams.
So, a privacy-friendly search engine will help you achieve this. I prefer to use these two options:
DuckDuckGo is one of the most popular private search engines that claims not to record any of your browsing data.
DuckDuckGo has also improved the quality of its search results over time, so you should get what you’re looking for most of the time.
2. Start page
Start Page is an interesting alternative that is similar to Google Search and uses the same results, but does not collect your data.
If you want the closest search results to Google, but still want a number of privacy features, Startpage may be an option.
Secure Messenger to protect your conversations
Whether it’s the government or the app itself, if you don’t want anyone but the intended recipient to have access to your conversations, private messengers should help.
While most users swear by WhatsApp, it’s not the best solution for privacy. And, yes, Facebook Messenger is not even worth considering.
Here are some of the best WhatsApp alternatives:
Signal is an open source messenger that supports end-to-end encryption and can be installed on the Linux desktop.
It also has several privacy features to keep your conversations safe.
Threema is a paid app that includes all the Signal features you need without asking for your phone number.
It also offers a standalone version for work. Threema can be a good choice if your friends/family want to buy the app for a one-time fee of around $3.
Choose a secure operating system to create a foundation
It is understandable if you cannot choose Linux over Windows according to your requirements.
However, if you want to make the switch to get complete privacy, here are some options from the list of available secure Linux distributions.
1. Linux Mint
Linux Mint is a fantastic Linux distribution for everyday use. It manages to do a few things better than Ubuntu, even though it is based on it.
It focuses on user choices and regular security updates to keep the operating system safe.
2. Qubes OS
Qubes OS is a security-focused distribution that can be overwhelming for beginners.
However, if you want to take part in the adventure of using one of the most secure/private OS out there, Qubes OS is a must try.
Password manager to protect accounts
No amount of privacy measures will do any good if an attacker can easily access any of your online accounts.
So, you should create stronger and more complex passwords. And it’s hard to do without a password manager.
Among the best password managers for Linux, I suggest using this one:
An open source password manager that offers all the features you need for free.
If you want to unlock its premium features, it will only cost $10 per year.
There is no end to the number of privacy-focused options available.
In the end, a lot of them just use “privacy” as a marketing gimmick or end up being unusable for end users.
So, it is better to stick to some proven services to use what works best for you.
Which of the listed tools do you prefer to use? Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below.