You are being watched
We are unaware that our innocent clicks on the internet can have far-reaching consequences in the real world. Big internet companies have invested millions in building server farms to run AI bots that monitor and analyze your emails, phone records, texts, and everything else that they can get hold of. Believe me when I say that they know you better than you know yourself. This problem has already been discussed in one of my other posts Why is privacy important?
Choose the right hardware
For Laptops and desktops, I would recommend purchasing from System 76. They deliver with Open source POP OS (GNU/Linux), Intel management engine disabled and mostly everything here is open source.
For Mobile devices, buy an Android phone (more on that later) and strictly stay away from Apple devices. GNU/Linux phones are also an option if you have the money to try something new.
Choose the right operating system
Choose GNU/Linux. It was once tough to use, but if you install it today, you may find it to be really simple. Many applications, such as the Adobe suite and games, are still incompatible with GNU/Linux. However, if you are a typical user who mostly uses a web browser, you should be alright. If you can’t use as a daily driver because of a compatibility issues or other reasons. Try dual booting it with other operating systems, then using GNU/Linux for private work. Encrypting the drive while installing an OS is always a wise decision. You can evaluate distribution options on Distrochooser.
For Android phones, I recommend buying a Pixel phone (The Irony) and installing Graphene OS or Calyx OS on it. If you are already using android, try to find an open source ROM for your current phone on XDA Forums. The AOSP (Android open source project) and Lineage OS are compatible with many devices. See if these are available for your device. These OSes will come without any Google apps. If you can’t live without Google, consider installing MicroG rather than a GApps package (Google Apps). Download apps using F-droid
Still figuring out the best ways.
Stop social networks from tracking you
It is difficult to substitute a social network because all of your friends and relatives are probably wasting their time on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, etc. I suggest you to read my post on browsing social media without being tracked
Try using these alternatives to popular social media services.
- Fediverse (Mastodon) > Twitter, Facebook, and Similar
- pixelfed > Instagram
- lemmy > Reddit
- peertube > YouTube
If you still can’t live without the mainstream platforms, try using privacy frontends to limit their tracking. These frontends also allow you to follow channels and accounts using RSS feeds. Apps like Farside and UntrackMe can automatically redirect you to a working frontend when you click on a link.
- Jami (Not audited yet)
- Many people recommend Telegram (but It’s not E2EE by default)
- XMPP, E-mail or Matrix with E2EE.
Change your search engine
Everytime you search on google, it’s recorded and used for you, or … against you. Google provides many such free services that rely on collecting user data. Google has managed to sneak it’s trackers in millions of apps and websites to build user profiles. These profiles are used to show so called relevant search results and personalised ads. All of this may not be a problem if you search to find What does a cat look like? It’s not going to show you an picture of a dog. But, when you search for subjective topics (e.g. politics). Your profile may be used to show you information that you already believe in. For e.g. If Google determines you are a flat earth believer it will keep showing flat earth videos to keep you engaged on YouTube and earn from the ads. By the way, The earth is not f**king flat and google knows it too.
Here are some alternatives
Change your email provider
I know this one is hard as you are using your email address since years, but It’s important to switch to a better email provider. In the long run, your email may become more valuable than your phone number. Consider buying a custom domain to make switching email providers easy.
I usually check the following when using an email provider
- Audited or at least open source clients and optionally servers
- Zero access encryption for storage of contacts, calendars
- Zero knowledge notifications
- Support for PGP
These have worked well for me
You can buy multiple domains to seperate your email identities. Some domains, like 1.111B Class .xyz domains are just 99 cents per year. But, beware some email providers deduct points for a fully numeric domain.
Don’t forget to deploy an Email alias service in front of your new email account. This will protect you from unintentional spam, automatic tracking, and if some service’s database is leaked, your original email address or other aliases will remain unexposed to threats. All the recommended Email providers also offer aliasing services, but I prefer using a dedicated one.
Purchasing a phone number without a valid ID is not possibe in many countries. Just search for how to get a burner phone in your counrty. I will add some providers after I test some.
Block ads, trackers and malware
Browser add-ons will stop trackers on websites.
Device level add-ons will stop trackers on websites as well as native apps.
Network level add-ons will stop trackers on any devices connected to your network. Laptops, Phones, Printers or even those stupid Fridges with useless apps.
I understand that abandoning a service or a device is difficult, but try to avoid companies whose operational patterns are similar to the following.
Facebook and acquisitions by Facebook. Includes Instagram and WhatsApp.
Everything from Amazon retail to Amazon Web Services.
To put it simply,
Use FOSS (Free/Libre and open source software) and stay away from corporate ecosystems.