Technology and Internet
Similar to my tips about travelling to my home town I decided to create a page with some of the technologies I use, together with rationale behind some of the choices. I hope anyone finds this useful.
This article does not recommend anything to anyone. It merely presents my opinions. Feel free to do otherwise and please do correct my mistakes.
It is true that anonymous browsing of the Internet is impossible. It is also true that *big tech* companies collect insane amount of data about pretty much every activity in the internet. While most people are fine with that, I try to limit that as much as possible without dropping the quality and convenience too much.
Also, if there is an open-source or non-big-tech alternative, I typically use it (unless it makes little sense). Big companies seek profit above all (naturally), whereas foundations, individual developers, and community-driven projects typically look for the best result for their userbase.
I am a fan of Firefox for almost as long as it exists. The experience is made even better with two add-ons:
- uBlock Origin
- blocks ads in almost every possible form, including those darn mid-video ones in YouTube
- DuckDuckGo Essentials
- removes tracking cookies
Firefox with both addons is available also for Android, which is a great alternative to Google's Chrome.
As an additional weird habit, I am never logged in to my Google account unless I really have to access its software (be it meeting or some work document), and even then I do it through a new private browsing window.
And yes, I am the person that rejects all cookies except the essential ones. Which is also the reason why there are no ads and no trackers on any of my webpages.
As old-fashioned as it may seem, I am not using browser to check my emails.
For computers, Thunderbird is an excellent tool, designed to send and receive emails. What is great, it allows reading and replying to emails in plain text. Yes, that is still a thing and it should be used more often. The benefit is of course that it nullifies all tracking images that tell marketers whether you have opened your email.
For mobile phones, K9 Mail, while a bit awkward at first, is also a fantastic tool. And since June 2022 it is a part of the Thunderbird family.
DuckDuckGo, despite its absurd name, is actually a pretty good search engine. It features no user tracking and no information bubble. Search engines that use profiling often display search results according to how likely the end user is interested in seeing them. Try it out for yourself, for example using a private browsing mode over VPN. For many topics results will be different. Personally, I do not need an algorithm to rank results for me, I can do that myself.
It is possible to use Duck as a search engine in every browser, including Chrome, Safari and mobile ones.
Some time ago I have been introduced to Signal and there has been no turning back. It ticks all the boxes: open source, no tracking, no ads, end-to-end encryption and profits from donations. It also allows video calls, chat groups, and sending files (optionally with lifespan!). It even has a desktop version, but it has to be installed on a mobile device first. Just be sure never to accept friends requests from unknown phone numbers.
Sadly, Android is the only option for me, as way too many apps are not available for Ubuntu or other pure Linux system. However, *DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser* can be downloaded from the app store. Not only is it a very good browser in and of itself, but it also supports tracking protection, in a form of a virtual VPN network that filters out various tracking means between apps. It did have its share of criticism recently, as it was particularly reluctant do block Microsoft-based trackers, but things have changed for good since then.
As an additional security measure, all my privacy settings for my Google account are modified: no ad personalisation, no tracking, no increased GPS precision, no location sharing, etc. This requires visiting quite a few menus in the settings, but is a thing that is worth doing. I also never use voice assistant and have it switched off - just the idea of this tool is freaking me out.
I use both Ubuntu- and Windows-based systems, the latter being customised for example with an Open Shell that brings classic Start menu in Windows 10 and 11. Of course, all possible privacy settings are also turned on by default and voice assistant is switched off.
I do not consider myself paranoid about safety and security online, though I do tend to limit the amount of data that can be collected about me (and then automatically processed and profiled to serve me more relevant ads). And it is not because I have anything to hide, it is simply because information is valuable.