How to Protect Your Online Privacy in 2020

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online privacyOnline privacy in 2020 is under a greater attack ever before in the major pushing force.

All major tech companies are now heavily running on the promise of protecting your data and not selling it to advertisers. That’s how they are luring you to their ecosystems. 

THE BIG FIVE (Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Others) in the world are literally everywhere.

If you just end up running a cookie or a tracking script from a random website or the game you are lot playing is having some hidden facebook code in it, that automatically sends all your phones data to Facebook even if you don’t have an account. 

Your data is being linked, so that wherever you go the big 5 has their eyes on you. Ready to monetize even the little space on your phones push notifications.

It is said Google is tracking you on 86% of the top 50,000 websites on the planet. (Source: Forbes | March 11, 2020 | John Koetsier).

Study says 90.4% of apps share data with at least one 3rd party. 35.3% apps share it with 10 or more 3rd parties. ( Third Party Tracking in the Mobile Ecosystem, University of Oxford, UK).

At any big movement THE BIG 5 following you through your whole digital presence from communication, through socializing, chatting, web browsing, searching, shopping, streaming, working, gaming and living your virtual life whatever way. 

For example consider if you are using services like Gmail, Hangouts, Meet, Chrome, Google Search, Youtube and Android TV or Phone, all these services are provided by Google and you are providing all your data to Google and they share data among those services.

This data linkability is the biggest menace to digital privacy and the strongest weapon of data hoarders. 

To regain your digital privacy you need to cut the links between those data points, and the best way to do is through compartmentalization. It means isolating all the activities in their own data compartment. 

We want to carefully choose our providers so that no one is entrusted with more than one service at a time, that means your Email provider should only handle your emails

Every service has a unique provider and no providers share data with one another. 

Let’s start with the easiest and most significant compartments search and browsing. These two activities if tracked can reveal a lot about your inner thoughts and most private moments. It can impact your health or home insurance fee, quality of services or flow of information. 

SEARCH

For search, there are plenty of privacy-respecting alternatives.

I personally use DudckDuckGo the most, but to diversify my sources I like to combine my search with other alternatives as well.

BROWSING

But as for as you do all your search in Chrome, Safari or Edge, then your searches could still be tracked. This is why it is important to secure your browsing with privacy-focused web browsers.

For Normies I recommend Brave, simply because it provides most protection out of the box without tweaking it.

And if you want to be really sure no one is snooping on your browsing and searching use Tor browser. It officially supports all desktop environment. Tor Browser gives you a fresh clean slate every time you begin a new session, which is important. You could say good habit of storing all of your browser data indefinitely. If you don’t delete cookies, cache and history then websites can still track you. Tor will hide your IP address and conceal your browsing from your ISP.

Brave doesn’t delete your browsing data by exit by default but you can reconfigure Brave in its simpler privacy settings.

The most secure browser for android is Bromite and it is only available on Android on its official website.

Firefox also provides you with high-end security to your privacy, if you do the necessary tweaking.



SOCIAL NETWORKS

Socialism for Apps, these are Progressive Web Apps (PWA), these are website versions of native mobile apps run by a browser, that can be installed on your home screen and function as a standalone app with functions like notifications and other features. The best thing about the PWA’s is better protected from permission-based apps like social media. PWA’s don’t have access to contacts, files or background location. So they are much better for privacy than the native apps. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Uber and Telegram among the many others support PWA’s. All mainstream browsers are PWA enabled. So the best way to use social media apps is to use a dedicated browser and run them as progressive web apps.

PRIVATE CHATTING

At this moment your instant messaging is centralized with a mainstream social media application, but there are good encrypted messengers that also take those steps to protect your data, contacts, timestamps, location, etc., 

Signal: Easy to use privacy protected app, uses your phone number for registration, but the app is entirely encrypted and the server store no metadata. Use Signal to privately communicate with your friends.

Briar: If you need total anonymity, then look for Briar. It is a peer-to-peer encrypted messenger works over the Internet, Tor or even Bluetooth. It doesn’t require any personal information for signup.

EMAIL

Email is not for sending mails alone any more, whenever you subscribe for something or create an account usually can’t go without an email address. So your email consolidates shopping, banking, subscription and other services in one place. So you have to make this place as private as possible. There are currently three extremely good encrypted email providers.

ProtonMail and Tutanato have excellent open-source mobile apps. Mailfence is also good but you have to sync it with an email client like Fair Email or K-9

They store all your emails encrypted which means they are not reading it and also they are not letting advertisers or the government read it either. It cannot be thought on any of the mainstream options. 

For maximum privacy, you have to separate email account for different utilities at least one for shopping, one for social media accounts and one for personal communications. Eventually, even work and banking deserves own separate email addresses.

You can go really crazy and create a new email account for every website and not use a real name in any of your email addresses. If you do this and it becomes significantly harder for anyone to track your online presence through your email.

Handling too many email accounts can be made easier with an email client, so that it can keep them away from the big five use ThunderBird for desktop, K-9 or Fair Email for Mobile.

PASSWORD MANAGERS

You should definitely avoid reusing passwords for your email accounts and that’s where password managers come in place, but again you want to avoid ecosystem track.

Secure all your accounts with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), but don’t use Google Authenticator and definitely avoid SMS for your 2FA. Use FreeOTP and AndOTP instead. These are both good and free software for one-time password generating apps.

APPLICATION FIREWALL

Isolating your security is excellent in keeping your data away from The Big 5, that are prone to disproportionately attract hackers in cybercrime.   

So, always use an application firewall on your phone, that helps to enhance your privacy.

Netguard is completely free and open-source and Lockdown for iOS which also blocks specific network connections. 

The biggest privacy benefit of using an application firewall is that you can block unnecessary internet access to apps that don’t need it which only used to drag data from your phone to the remote servers. 

By isolating our searching, browsing, chatting, email communication we essentially learned how to keep The Big 5 from cross tracking from our different activities. 

Some other areas of digital life are

Mega Cloud https://mega.nz/ – as a replacement for Google Drive, iCloud or One Drive

Nextcloud https://www.nextcloud.com another encrypted Cloud drive. The Free version offers significantly smaller storage than that of mainstream cloud providers. But remember there is no cloud, its only other people’s computers. If you are not paying storage with your money they are gonna pay for it with your data.

You should encrypt your files before uploading them for this Veracrypt https://www.veracrypt.fr which offers extremely stronger encryption and data security that is completely in your hands.

Cryptomator https://cryptomator.org/ – it is the most convenient encryption solution, it can work with any service and it can do the work automatically for you. 

OsmAnd https://osmand.net/ – It is a full-featured Google Map replacement which does not have any of those location tracking.

*F-Droid* https://www.fdroid.org – It’s a repository of free and open-source software for your android phone.  

LineageOS https://lineageos.org/ – By flashing into Lineage OS you can get an open-source android phones with completely Google free.           

GrapheneOS https://grapheneos.org/  –  It is a security-focused Mobile OS 

Invidious https://www.invidio.us – It is alternative to Youtube, which is free from all tracking stuffs.

NewPipe https://newpipe.schabi.org/ – It is a YoutubeClient for your phone.


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