Table of Contents:
- Ad & Tracker Blockers
- Browser Extensions & Add-Ons
- Virtual Private Networks
- Password Managers
- Private Browsers
- Private Email Services
- Private & Encrypted Messaging
- Private Search Engines
- Web Proxy
- File Encryption Software
- Decentralized, Private Social Networks
- Other Privacy Tools
Ad & Tracker Blockers
We’ve combined ad and tracker blockers because their functionalities are basically the same. Generally, they work by detecting tracking or ad scripts on the pages you visit. If the blocker detects that code, it will block the script from running, thus blocking the ads or the tracking.
Privacy Badger: Privacy Badger is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser.
uBlock Origin: uBlock Origin is available as a browser add on for most major browsers. It’s a free and open-source, cross-platform browser extension for content-filtering, including ad-blocking. It’s a lightweight and efficient blocker that’s easy on memory and CPU.
Browser Extensions & Add-Ons
Browser extensions or add-ons are somewhat of a touchy subject. Some privacy advocates are against them claiming that they are just another third-party to collect your data. Others see them as valuable additions to a complete privacy toolkit. Before downloading a browser extension, do research into the permissions it requests and how it uses your data, if at all.
Cookie AutoDelete: Cookie AutoDelete automatically deleted unused cookies from your closed tabs, and can keep certain cookies that you want to keep. If you are no longer using a cookie, after you close a tab, this add on will delete the cookie. This helps prevent tracking and let’s you whitelist cookies that you trust. This extension is available for Firefox and Chrome.
Decentraleyes: Decentraleyes protects you from third party content delivery systems on websites you visit. Ads and trackers are a couple of examples of the content that these third parties load on different websites. Decentraleyes is designed to be used in unison with standard ad blockers like uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus.
Disconnect: Disconnect crawls the web to find the companies that track people, then it blocks those companies’ tracking requests in your browser. It offers a simple user interface and once added to your browser is easy to use.
HTTPS Everywhere: HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure. HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It makes sites that support HTTPS redirect to their secure versions to protect your data.
Firefox Multi-Account Containers: Firefox Multi-Account Containers lets you keep parts of your online life separated into color-coded tabs that preserve your privacy. Cookies are separated by container, allowing you to use the web with multiple identities or accounts simultaneously.
uMatrix: uMatrix is a browser add on that lets you control the requests your browser makes. You can pick and choose which types of requests you allow to load. uMatrix is useful for blocking scripts, iframes, ads, and Facebook specifically.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs are a valuable addition to a complete range of privacy tools. They help protect you and your information by rerouting your internet connection through multiple “virtual” networks with different geo-locations. VPNs make it more difficult for websites you visit to track you and determine who you are.
There are tons of choices when it comes to VPNs. We’ve selected a few reputable options that deliver on their privacy promises.
CyberGhost: CyberGhost VPN is 100% customizable and you can decide every aspect of your VPN experience: from specific servers to multiple features you can combine, all with the most advanced filtering and feedback options available on the market.
ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is a virtual private network service offered by the British Virgin Islands-based company Express VPN International Ltd. The software is marketed as a privacy and security tool that encrypts users’ web traffic and masks their IP addresses. In 2018, TechRadar named the services its Editors’ Choice.
Hotspot Shield: Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network utility developed by AnchorFree, Inc. VPNs are used for securing Internet connections, often in unsecured networks. Hotspot Shield was used to bypass government censorship during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
NordVPN: NordVPN is a personal virtual private network service provider. It has desktop applications for Windows and macOS, mobile apps for Android and iOS, as well as an application for Android TV. NordVPN is noted for its strong encryption, no-log policy, and more than 4800 servers in 62 countries.
Perfect Privacy: Perfect Privacy is committed to the privacy and anonymity of its members since 2008 and is one of the most secure VPN providers worldwide since the beginning. The protection of your privacy is our main concern – therefore we do not record user activity.
Private Internet Access: Private Internet Access offers hidden IP addresses, and anonymous VPN tunnels. It supports multiple VPN technologies including PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SOCKS5 and OpenVPN.
TunnelBear: TunnelBear is a public virtual private network service based in Toronto, Canada. The company was founded by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk in 2011. In March 2018, TunnelBear was acquired by McAfee, a trusted name in the cybersecurity space. TunnelBear has been independently audited by Cure53.
ZenMate: Along with ZenMate’s regular VPN product, it also offers ZenMate Business. This product offers VPN security with improved management tools to suit business needs. Zenmate is easy to set up and the Chrome extension is useful if you’re using Chrome.
A strong password is one of the first lines of defense for your information. If someone can figure out your password, it could compromise your email and all the information you may have received or sent.
Bitwarden: Bitwarden is a free and open source password management solution for individuals, teams, and business organizations. It works as both a password storage and generator tool. Bitwarden supports syncing between all of your devices, making it easy and convenient to use.
Master Password:With Master Password you leave no passwords laying around. You no longer store passwords in commercial, proprietory apps and no longer send them off to the cloud. You are no longer tied to your laptop or the internet if you need to look one up. Even if a personal or natural catastrophe causes you loss, you can never lose your account passwords — all you ever need is your one and only secret master password and anyone’s Master Password calculator app.
KeePass: KeePass is a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).
LessPass: LessPass is a stateless password manager that works offline. LessPass is fully open source, and you can view its source code on GitHub.
Read More: Best Password Manager & Password Generator Tools
Private browsers use a number of ways to protect your privacy. One of the primary differences between these browsers and a browser like Google Chrome is that the browser itself doesn’t collect information about your browsing. Even though Google Chrome is one of the most secure browsers, it comes at the price of sharing all your browsing with Google.
Tor Browser: Tor Browser lets you use Tor on Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, or GNU/Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained (portable). Tor keeps you anonymous by bouncing your internet communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all over the world. It prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.
Mozilla Firefox: Mozilla has added many new privacy protection features to its latest versions of Firefox. Firefox warns users when login forms aren’t secure and could be leaking private information. It also blocks insecure content from loading on secure web pages. Another unique feature is the built-in phishing and malware protection.
Brave: Brave fights malware and prevents tracking, keeping your information safe and secure. Its servers don’t see or store your browsing data. Brave also blocks ads from loading so it can speed up your browsing experience. Brave is also attempting to implement a blockchain-based advertising method which prioritizes user attention over user data.
Private Email Services
Email in its default form has very little privacy protection built in. Some email providers even scan the contents of your emails to use for advertising purposes. Private email providers can encrypt the contents of your emails and take other measures to keep your communications private.
ProtonMail: ProtonMail is one of the most well-known secure email providers. It allows users to send encrypted emails to their contacts, even if the other user doesn’t use ProtonMail. It’s also very simple to set up, which can’t be said for other private email services.
Hushmail: Hushmail offers encrypted, private email specifically for enterprise use for the healthcare and legal sectors. It began providing secure web mail solutions in 1999, so it’s an established player in the field. It lets users easily toggle between encrypted or unencrypted communication. For emails sent to other Hushmail users, they will be encrypted by default. Non-users can view emails on a secure webpage.
Mailfence: Mailfence is an encrypted email service that uses OpenPGP encryption and digital signatures. It is available in a free form with limited storage capacity. Paid plans are also available for those looking for more features and storage. You can also find a mobile version here. If you currently use Ymail, Gmail or Hotmail, you can import your account into Mailfence for more privacy.
Tutanota: Tutanota is an open-source end-to-end encrypted email software and freemium hosted secure email service. Its business model excludes earning money through advertisement relying solely on donations and Premium subscriptions. As of March 2017, Tutanota had over 2 million users.
Private & Encrypted Messaging
These messaging services offer the convenience of instant messaging, with end-to-end encryption. Regular text messaging (SMS) is not secure and has many security threats. These services also offer other security protections like expiring and self-destructing messages. If you truly want your communications to be private, encrypted messaging is a great option.
Signal: Signal uses end-to-end encryption and is engineered to keep your communication private. Signal is an Open Source project, and is supported by grants and donations, meaning it can put users first, by putting people over profits. It emphasizes delivering a “fast, simple, and secure messaging experience”.
Wire: Wire is another private alternative to instant messaging apps. It allows users to communicate securely with clients and partners — even if they don’t have a Wire account. Create an encrypted guest room in seconds; just send an invitation link and partners can join with a click.
Telegram: Telegram offers a private, cloud-based messaging platform for desktop and mobile users. It has grown to over 100 million monthly active users. Telegram uses end-to-end encryption, and is considered one of the most secure messaging platforms. You can send self-destructing messages that will disappear from both your and the recipient’s device after a set amount of time.
Read More: Private Email & Messaging Platforms for Confidential Communication
Private Search Engines
Search Encrypt: Search Encrypt uses local encryption to secure your searches. It combines AES-256 encryption with Secure Sockets Layer encryption. Search Encrypt then retrieves your search results from its network of search partners. After you’re done searching, your search terms expire so they are private even if someone else has access to your computer.
Searx: Searx calls itself a “privacy-respecting, hackable metasearch engine.” It securely and privately aggregates results from over 70 search services. Searx does not track or profile its users and it works with Tor, which is another great internet privacy tool. Every result that Searx returns is a direct link to the result, and not a tracked redirect link as used by Google. Searx also allows users to visit “cached” or “proxied” links so they can get the information from a website without visiting, or passing data to, the site.
StartPage: StartPage uses results from Google, which is a good thing if you prefer Google’s result without the tracking. Ixquick, which is an independent search engine that uses its own results, developed StartPage to include results from Google. Its features include a proxy service, URL generator, and HTTPS support. The URL generator is a unique feature that eliminates the need for cookies. It remembers your settings in a privacy friendly way.
Qwant: Qwant is a private search engine based in Europe that “never tries to guesswho you are or what you are doing.” According to its About page, Qwant never records your searches and never uses your personal data for advertising or other purposes. Qwant has a feature similar to DuckDuckGo’s !bangs which it calls Qwick search shortcuts.
Proxies are similar to VPNs in that they make your internet connection appear to be coming from somewhere other than your personal network. However, proxies don’t use the encryption typically associated with VPNs. VPNs encrypt your network activity between your computer and the VPN server, while proxies do not.
However, proxies can still be useful for protecting your privacy. If you don’t want websites you visit to be able to track your location, but aren’t worried about the content you’re viewing possibly being tracked or monitored, you can use a proxy.
Privoxy: Privoxy is a non-caching web proxy with advanced filtering capabilities for enhancing privacy, modifying web page data and HTTP headers, controlling access, and removing ads and other obnoxious Internet junk. Privoxy has a flexible configuration and can be customized to suit individual needs and tastes. It has application for both stand-alone systems and multi-user networks.
File Encryption Software
VeraCrypt: VeraCrypt is a disk encryption software for Windows, MacOS and Linux. It works by making a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. This way you can store your files on your physical hard drive, but they are protected in this virtual disk. You can also use VeraCrypt to encrypt external storage devices like flash drives or external hard dives.
Decentralized, Private Social Networks
Diaspora*: Diaspora calls itself the “online social world where you are in control. By combining decentralization, freedom and privacy it delivers a “social media” experience without the privacy intrusive aspects. Diaspora has a number of hosted pods, that are the networks you use on the service. These are based on specific locations or interests. You can also host your own pod, if you have sysadmin knowledge and skills.
Mastodon: Mastodon is likely the decentralized social network with the largest user base (around 1.6 million people). Similar to Diaspora*, Mastodon runs with thousands of independent communities for networking and sharing. Mastodon uses a number of anti-abuse tools, uses stricter moderation that other social networks, and uses a strongly enforced codes of conducts to prevent abuse.
Other Privacy Tools
Beyond the basic range of privacy tools, there are many tools that are very unique or that don’t fall into one of the categories above. Both of these services below are useful and have played a big role in spreading privacy awareness online.
Let’s Encrypt: Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit founded in 2014 by the Internet Security Research Group. It provides an easy solution for websites wanting to enable HTTPS. Without HTTPS security, the information you enter into a website could be tracked or intercepted. Let’s Encrypt has made the process of switching to HTTPS simple.
Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR): ToS;DR is a great tool for understanding privacy policies, which are often long, complicated documents filled with legal jargon. The people behind this product realized the issues with terms of service agreements online: no one reads them. If we’re all blindly agreeing to these long and hard to read documents, ToS;DR can help us understand what in them.