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Online Privacy Cheat Sheet

Last Updated: April 23, 2020

Below you’ll find a list of solutions that can help in the battle to keep our privacy intact and our personal data to ourselves. Please share suggestions of your own in the comment section below.

I have no affiliation with any of these companies or products, nor do I stand to receive any commission or compensation for these suggestions

Desktop Browser

Have you ever wondered how Facebook or Google seem to know all your online activity?

It's not just your imagination.

Some Examples

Facebook provides website owners a snippet of "Facebook" code (called a Facebook Pixel). Every time a page on that website loads, that code runs and details about the visit are sent to Facebook.

Of course, Facebook isn't the only one to do this. Google has its own code snippet that they provide website owners under the title of "Google Analytics". This code allows website owners to view valuable traffic data like how many visitors came to their site, which pages they looked at, which page was the last page before they left, and much more. 

Yes, absolutely. This should be your first line of defense.

Many websites will make it sound like you can toggle the data they receive off. Facebook, for example, allows you to turn "off" a feature called "Future Off-Facebook Activity. However, in small print they still say:

"We'll still receive your activity from the businesses and organizations you visit, but it may take 48 hours until it's fully disconnected from your account."

Notice that they don't say that it may take 48 hours before it's removed. It's 48 hours until it's disconnected from your account. 

In other words, they won't use the data to target you with ads. But they certainly aren't deleting that valuable data and they certainly won't stop themselves from receiving it.

This is why Browser Privacy Extensions are crucial to your privacy. They disable the code that these websites use to communicate to Facebook, Google and others. In other words, they block Cross-Site Tracking

Apple has actually built Cross-Site Tracker Blocking into their Safari browsers. That's why I use Safari for all my personal (non-business) browsing, in addition to using the 1Blocker extension.

Do I fully trust Apple? No, definitely not. But their business model is based around selling products and services (for now). So the incentive to collect user data is much lower than it is for companies like Facebook and Google who live and breathe on ad sales.

HTTPS Everywhere

A browser extension that forces secure connections (HTTPS) to websites when available.

GET IT HERE:

Chrome

Firefox

Privacy Badger

A browser extension that disables cross-site trackers

GET IT HERE:

Chrome

Firefox

1Blocker for macOS

Ad and Tracker blocker that's installed as an app and integrates into Safari as a Content Blocker.

1Blocker provides a free version of their app and a paid version. The free version allows you to select one blocking feature. You can block ads, block trackers, block adult sites, etc. But on free you can only block one of these categories. Upgrade to paid and you can block all of these categories.

Plus, the developers are a couple of Indie Developers who appear to prioritize privacy and fully own their company and haven't sold it off to VC (venture capitalism is a big cause of a lot of our privacy woes today).

GET IT HERE:

App Store

iOS Browser (iPhone, iPad)

1Blocker for iOS

Ad and Tracker blocker that's installed as an app and integrates into Safari as a Content Blocker.

1Blocker provides a free version of their app and a paid version. The free version allows you to select one blocking feature. You can block ads, block trackers, block adult sites, etc. But on free you can only block one of these categories. Upgrade to paid and you can block all of these categories.

Plus, the developers are a couple of Indie Developers who appear to prioritize privacy and fully own their company and haven't sold it off to VC (venture capitalism is a big cause of a lot of our privacy woes today).

GET IT HERE:

App Store

Email

The rule of thumb is: if a product is free, then it is not the product, you are.

Email providers like Gmail are constantly scanning your email, forming a digital avatar of you. This digital avatar allows advertisers to target you with extreme levels of accuracy.

Having advertisers target you may not be an issue, but where the concern lies is how companies like Gmail (Google) have boatloads of data on you. Think about how much goes through your email. Purchases, newsletters, personal communications, trip plans. The list goes on. At the very least, this is a major security implication because no company is hack-proof and data breaches occur all the time. And unfortunately, a lot of companies are not completely transparent about these issues (see the time Google didn't report their leak until months later). So the more data you have under one company, the greater the risk for your personal identity. If your data is spread out and a breach occurs, at least only the data under that company was compromised.

I personally decided to get serious about my email privacy when I was dealing with an estate and I realized how sensitive some of those emails where. At that point, I decided it was time to switch to an email provider who had no incentive to scan my data for advertisers.

And the only way around that is to pay for the service you use (or host your email yourself which can be a mess).

Fastmail

An email provider with plans starting at $3 / user / month.
Or upgrade to the next tier and use your own custom domain (ex. daniel@mycustomdomain.com).

At the end of the day, any email host will have access to all of your private emails. The best you can do is find a host that you trust. Or better yet, find a email host that is incentivized to elevate privacy and not incentivized to disregard it.

Fastmail's business model is built around selling their email service. Meaning, they make money when you subscribe. They state that they do not sell data, nor are they advertising to you.

GET IT HERE:

Fastmail

Search

DuckDuckGo

A search engine that is privacy centered and states that they do not collect or share personal information.

Safari, Firefox, Chrome all allow you to set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.

DuckDuckGo uses a collection of sources for their search results, with the main source being Bing. However, according to DuckDuckGo, no personal data is passed through to these other sources.

GET IT HERE:

DuckDuckGo

StartPage

A search engine that uses Google's search results but doesn't pass any personal data to Google.

Even though they use Google's API, your results using Startpage will most likely be different than your results with Google since Google changes results based upon your location, history, and other data it has on you.

GET IT HERE:

StartPage

This is a work in progress and I hope to continue to add to this list in the days to come.

If you have any requests or if you have any suggestions of products you use, add them in the comment section below!

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