My Lineup of Privacy Tools
These are the tools I use almost every day. This is a list of the general internet tools I use, which you’ll notice includes some non-private tools.
Email: Outlook and ProtonMail
For work, I use an Outlook email account. I know this isn’t the best option, but I would guess that there are plenty of people who are using Outlook accounts for work against their preference. I only use this account for business communications and calendar (and don’t sign up for other services with this account).
I selected ProtonMail after doing some research into “private” email services. While there are a number of options out there, ThatOnePrivacySite helped me settle on ProtonMail. The company also operates ProtonVPN, and the ProtonMail’s no-logs policy and privacy activism helped set it apart.
Search Engine: Search Encrypt and Ecosia
You can place all of your trust in your search engine and hope that it doesn’t do anything to compromise the search data it collects…or you can routinely switch between search engines to limit the data it could potentially collect.
I’ve decided to use a privacy-focused search engine that doesn’t store my history or sell it to advertisers. I chose Search Encrypt specifically because it uses local encryption, which means that no one can see what I’ve searched for even if they can access my computer and check my browsing history.
I also like to mix up my searches a little bit so that no one search engine has all of my search data (even those that say they don’t track me). For this, I use Ecosia (and occasionally DuckDuckGo or StartPage). Ecosia is another search engine that takes privacy seriously, but its main value is that it donates a portion of its revenue to plant trees around the world.
Cloud Storage: Dropbox & Tresorit
I use Dropbox at work because it’s what the rest of my team uses. I’d obviously prefer to use a cloud storage tool with better encryption and other privacy features. Edward Snowden criticized Dropbox for using encryption methods which still allowed the company to share user files with government agencies if approached with a warrant.
If I’m using cloud storage for my personal files I use Tresorit. Tresorit uses zero-knowledge encryption, which means that it doesn’t know anything about the contents of your encrypted files. It’s privacy-friendly but doesn’t compromise user-experience for privacy.
Browser: Firefox (and Chrome)
I use Firefox probably 85 percent of the time. Mozilla has really improved this browser in the past few years. It has continuously added new privacy features to its browser, including built-in ad and tracker blocking.
As part of my job, I have to test websites across multiple browsers to ensure compatibility. I use Chrome a lot for this because it has the largest market share.
Password Manager: KeePass
This is another holdover from the tools I use at work. There are probably more secure password managers out there, but KeePass 2 is what I use at work and I’ve been pleased with the functionality.
Messaging: Slack and iMessage
I use Slack for work. I know that there are better encrypted messaging tools out there, but it’s hard to use a different messaging app than every other person at my company. Slack is fine because I only use it for internal communications for work purposes.
I have an iPhone, so I use iMessage for messaging. This has limitations because I can’t send iMessages to my contacts who don’t have iPhones. This means I end up using standard text messaging on a regular basis, but I’m not a drug dealer or a criminal (or at least I don’t discuss these things via text message).
Browser extensions get a bad rap when it comes to privacy. There are definitely some browser extensions that exploit certain permissions to track and store users’ data. If you are cautious about the permissions that you grant to browser extensions, the privacy standards set by the different extension catalogs are actually quite high. A quick bit of research before installing an extension can give you a good idea of whether or not a given extension is safe to install.
HTTPS Everywhere: This extension redirects sites you visit to their HTTPS, secure versions. HTTPS Everywhere is provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is a well-respected advocate for privacy on the internet.
Cookie Inspector: Cookie Inspector is a developer tool that allows users to edit the cookies stored in their browser and delete any unwanted cookies.
This is just a short list of the tools I use on a regular basis. You’ll notice that I fall into the same trap as many people when it comes to privacy tools at work. Because the standard tools that the whole company uses aren’t necessarily the most privacy-friendly, I have to use these tools regularly.