April 23, 2024

Privacy and DeGoogling: Simple and Free Ways to Protect Your Privacy and Data in the Digital World

Tails, Tor, and Secure Internet Browsing

For improved privacy, download Tails to a USB drive (8gb+). Tails is a free open source operating system. Tails allows you to securely access Tor, an anonymous web browser that allows you to access the “onions” websites, ie websites that can only be accessed via Tor. Tails provides the information you need to successfully download the OS on to a flashdrive. Once the installation is complete, plug the USB in to your computer and boot from USB (usually F9 or F11). Each computer is different, meaning the boot from usb commands vary depending on your device.

All browsing done via a Tails USB is isolated to the USB drive, not your computer. DuckDuckGo is the defult search engine for tor.

Onions Website

You can create your own “dark net” website. An onions website prevents censorship of your content.

Smartphones

While smartphones typically come with an Android or iOS operating system, you can install open source operating systems. Open source OS’s for smartphones increases privacy and limits the ability of big tech companies like Google to access, profit from, or track your data.

/e/ Foundation and Lineage OS both offer enhanced privacy and “degoogling.” It’s standard for phones to come with preinstalled software and Google apps. /e/Foundation and Lineage OS offer alternatives to Google Play and Google apps, which reduces the amount of data shared to big tech. /e/Foundation is compatible with over 150 devices, while Lineage OS is currently limited to roughly 20 devices. Both OS’s are 100% free. /e/Foundation does sell devices with /e/OS (starting at $199).

GrapheneOS and CalyxOS are excellent, privacy driven operating systems. The software is free, but compatibility for devices is primarily limited to Google Pixel phones. CalyxOS offers excellent encryption.

Social Media

Telegram allows you to download their app directly from their website. You can use apps like TextFree and GoogleVoice to create a free phone number to receive a 2FA code to setup a Telegram account. Telegram offers a desktop and smartphone app. Downloading the application directly from Telegram’s website prevents Google Play or Apple from censoring content on Telegram.

4chan is an similar to reddit. Unlike reddit, you do not need to provide any information to post and the platform has limited censorship (4chan.org).

Home Network

Start9 lsells a personal encrypted server called the Embassy. It’s a simple setup process (you will need to use Tor to set it up):

“You use your Embassy and its installed services in total privacy, right from the browser, from anywhere on Earth, and there are no trusted 3rd parties. What you do with your Embassy is your business; it cannot be monitored or accessed by anyone – not even Start9, not even your ISP. It is your sovereign territory in the land of the Internet.”

Microsoft Office and Google Docs/Sheets Alternatives

LibreOffice is a free, open-source software that offers an alternative to Google Docs and Microsoft Word. LibreOffice has Calc, which is alternative to Excel and Google Sheets. WPS Office is another free, open source alternative that looks visibily similar to Microsoft Office.

Streaming Alternatives

Kodi is a free open source software that allows you to watch just about anything: live TV, movies currently in theaters, and domestic and international content. It is legal and free to use in the United States. You can download Kodi to your computer or add it to an Amazon fire stick. Kodi allows you to stream and watch everything services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO, and cable companies offer, but for free.

Pluto, Crackle, and Tubi are other options for free video content (Pluto offers free live TV and on demand content).

Wireless Alternatives

TextFree offers free cellular service with the purchase of a $4.99 sim card. FreedomPop also offers free cellular service.

PGP

PGP is free encryption software. You can use PGP to encrypt emails and other digital communications. Enncrypted messages are “sealed” with private and/or public keys, meaning only invididuals with the “key” can read the message. If Peter is sending a PGP encrypted email to John, Peter will add John’s “key” when constructing the message. John’s “key” is required for Petere’s message to be viewed/read.

Email

Protonmail is an encyrpted, and free, email provider. You can also utilize “burner” email servcies, such as TempMail, BurnerMail, and EmailonDeck. Burner email services allow you to send emails without creating an account.

This list is hardly a complete list of ways to improve your data security and privacy in the digital world. If you are having problems installing software, reach out to the developer. There are also plenty of extensive guides available (for example, if you want to install LineageOS on a Nokia phone, search DuckDuckGo for how to install lineageOS nokia). If you care about data security and privacy, you will have to do your own research to find the best solutions for your situation. Don’t get frustrated if you face stumbling blocks. For example, it’s normal to have issues installing or setting up Kodi and Tails. If you run in to an issue, utilize search engines and other tools to find answers. YouTube and Rumble are filled with installation and troubleshooting tutorials.

Companies like Facebook and Google are dependent upon their users. Users not only add value (ie, Facebook’s users are a method to evaluate its worth as a company and its market share) to big tech companies, but they also provide free labor and data. For example, Facebook generates revenue from ads. The more users there are and the more engagement that occurs, the more Facebook can charge for ads. The data Facebook harvests can be utilized for research or to create new technologies (machine learning, AI). For example, Facebook can investigate problems from other industries by reviewing and harvesting data from its users. If company A wants to know if product B will be popular, Facebook can utilize the data on its platform to see if people like B (for example, previous ads for B can be reviewed to see how many people clicked on the ad, shared it, or bought the product).

Google’s search engine is so popular that marketing companies implement Search Engine Optimization, which seeks to increase a website/articles “Google ranking” by inserting “keywords and phrases.” Google Academy offers free online classes about SEO.

While it may be difficult to completely withdraw from all interactions with big tech, you can take simple steps to “degoogle” and switch to free alternatives that increase your privacy, limit survilliance, and protect your data.