If you are serious about protecting your privacy, you need to use the right apps to do it. You can’t rely on the Microsofts and Apples of the world. Switch to one of these apps guaranteed to keep your data safe from spies.
A lot of apps are snooping on what you are doing. Google is known to read your mails, and some cloud storage providers even delete files that they think might be illegal. As for your instant messages, who knows how many government agencies are spying on Facebook and WhatsApp?
1. Standard Notes (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS): A Private Notepad
A notepad is one of the most important apps on any computer or smartphone. It only makes sense then that your notepad should sync across devices. We usually suggest Simplenote for this, but if privacy is a concern, check out Standard Notes.
It’s similar to Simplenote and Apple’s Notes app. The left sidebar has a list of all your different notes, while the right shows the contents of each note. It’s text only, you can’t save images or videos here. And all your notes are encrypted by default to protect your privacy.
The free version automatically syncs notes across devices, and works offline too. But if you want to backup your notes, it will cost you $4.99 per month. This premium account also supports extensions for Standard Notes.
If features matter more than privacy, and you can’t pony up the five bucks, there are alternatives. Simplenote is probably the best notetaking app out there, but you should also look at these other auto-saving notepad apps.
2. OnionShare (Windows, Mac, Linux): Share Files of Any Size, Privately
Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are the three big players in the file-sharing market today. But none of them are private. It’s a growing concern for whistleblowers. If Snowden needed to share files today, what should he use? Enter OnionShare.
OnionShare is an open-source tool that uses the Onion network of proxies. This masks your IP address and routes your file across several servers. The end result is that no spy can figure out where the file is originally sent from. OnionShare also encrypts the file, to be doubly sure.
Both you and the recipient will need to install OnionShare to use it. It’s a peer-to-peer file sharing service, so both users will need to be online at the same time.
3. 0Bin (Web): Private Clipboard to Paste Text or Images
When you want to share some sensitive text or images, you want to ensure it goes to the right person. 0Bin is a private clipboard to paste text or images, much like PasteBin or Imgur.
Go to the site and it’s ready to use, no signup necessary. In the text box, paste whatever you want. Or use the Upload File button to choose an image from your hard drive. 0Bin has a built-in burner that will destroy the message after a certain time, so choose the expiration period. Finally, click Submit and share the link with whoever you want.
Everything you put in 0Bin is encrypted by default. You can read more about the encryption details in the FAQ page. And in case your last paste shows up again, don’t worry, that’s just coming from your browser’s local storage.
Google and Microsoft both offer office suites online for free. Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 both let you share files with others, and collaborate on them in real time. But can you really trust Google and Microsoft? If your answer is no, use the private word processor EtherPad, and the private spreadsheet app EtherCalc.
Neither app is as full-featured as what you’ll get from Google or MS. But these private apps do the basics right, and protect your data from snoops. All the information is encrypted, so the only person who can read your file is someone you gave the link and password to.
EtherPad is easy to install and works as you might expect. EtherCalc is a bit more difficult, and you’ll need to use Node.JS to run it offline. You’re probably better off using the web app alone to create a private spreadsheet in your browser.
5. Wire (Web, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS): Best Private Messenger?
It’s awesome that WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption now, but there are still other privacy issues to tackle. Skype co-founder Janus Friis believes his new app Wire is the most secure and private instant messenger today. And several experts agree.
Wire is free and works on all the major platforms. It encrypts text, audio, and video chats. The company lays a particular emphasis on the quality of the audio and video chats, even with continuous encryption.
Wire has been quite open in how they protect their users. Several security experts have reviewed their approach and praised it. In fact, quite a few said that Wire is better than Signal or other private messengers.
Download: Wire for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS (Free)
Privacy vs. Convenience: What Matters More?
At this point, you should know that online privacy matters and you should protect it. The “I have nothing to hide” argument no longer holds water. But privacy and convenience are often at war.
When you choose an app, does convenience trump privacy for you? If you know that a messaging company reads your data, would you stick with it because most of your friends use it and you don’t want to be left out?
Would you use a free app with dubitable privacy or a paid app with full privacy control?