A Simple and Effective Guide to Online Privacy

Published on 17 Jul 2021 | Updated on 08 Jul 2022
Written by Pranav Chakkarwar
7 min to read

You Are Being Watched

We are unaware that simple activities on the internet can have far-reaching consequences in the real world. Big internet companies have already invested millions in building server farms that run AI bots to monitor and analyze your emails, phone records, texts, and everything else you can think of. Believe me when I say, sometimes 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 recomend 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 OS 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

Network Privacy

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.

If you still can’t live without the mainstream platforms. You can use privacy preserving frontends to limit their tracking.

Communicate Privately

Change your Search Engine

People use google to get good search results that are relevant because everytime you search on google, it’s recorded and used for you. Google provides many such free services that rely on collecting user data. Google has it’s trackers in millions of apps and websites. All these techniques are used to create profiles for individual people. These profiles are used to show so called relevant search results and personalised ads. 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.

What are some alternatives?

There are many more. Just don’t google it to find one. 😂

Change Your Email Provider

I know this one is hard as you are using your email address since years but, It’s crucial to pick the correct email provider. Your email may ultimately become more valuable than your phone number as you utilize it more. Consider buying a custom domain to make switching email providers easy.

I usually check the following when using an email provider

These work well

If you are looking for cheap domains. I will recommend buying the 1.111B Class .xyz domains. These are just 99 cents per year. Yes, that’s right.

Don’t forget to deploy an Email alias service with 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.

At some point in the future you may want to switch email providers, but It is often not easy to move from one email provider to another so consider buying a custom domain.

Phone Numbers

In terms of phone number privacy, it depends on which country you live in. 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.

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.

Some Tips

I understand that abandoning a service or a device is difficult, but try to avoid these companies if possible (at least for your personal accounts or hardware).

To put it simply,

Use FOSS (Free and open source software) and avoid any Corporate Digital Ecosystems.

That's it!

I hope you enjoyed this article, as there are no ads, no trackers, no paywall, no shilling, no affiliate links, and no intentional bias, but I'm not perfect. Feel free to send your feedback.