Top five free online privacy tools

Although maintaining complete anonymity on the internet is very difficult, there are plenty of tools and alternative services out there that can help protect your personal data. Below we’ve listed five of our favourite services and tools that are privacy conscious. Of course, using the below suggestions will not guarantee 100% protection from privacy intrusions, but they’re a good place to start!

Duck Duck Go

If you want to get out of the Google eco-system then the first thing you’ll want is a search engine alternative. You can find big brand alternatives such as Bing and Excite, but DuckDuckGo is one of the few search engines that takes user privacy seriously. DuckDuckGo promises that it won’t track users or  employ filter bubbles - tailoring your search results based on your account history. This anti-Google attitude has been gaining DuckDuckGo a great deal of publicity and the search engine recent broke the million visitors per day milestone. DuckDuckGo also offers a bunch of handy tools such as metric conversions, common calculations and stock price info.

Ghostery

Ghostery is an add-on that originally launched on Mozilla’s Firefox browser and is now available for Chrome, IE and Opera (as well as a standalone app for iOS). Along with DoNotTrack, Ghostery is one of the best privacy-orientated add-ons available for browsers. Ghostery essentially blocks tracking from ad-companies via cookie blocking and cookie protection. The add-on also gives you a list of all the ad networks, data companies and publishers tracking your browser on any given page. It’s a great tool, but it can cause some pages to load incorrectly and mess-up social sharing buttons (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Hushmail

If you’re looking for an email service that takes privacy seriously HushMail is a good option. However it’s not perfect. Hushmail has to comply with court-ordered warrants from law enforcement, just like any other email provider (and it drew a lot of criticism for this). If you want more privacy over the content of your emails then you can use Mozilla Thunderbird in combination with an encryption tool like Enigmail. There’s also Lavabit, which promises a privacy-orientated email service, but its servers are located in the US, which some say has less-stringent requirements for law enforcement access than Canada, where Hushmail is located.

Diaspora

Diaspora was originally billed as a Facebook-killer back in 2010 when it first started out. That scenario is looking ever more unlikely, as the project was fraught with difficulties while Facebook has gone from strength-to-strength. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a social network that gives you control of your personal data – via a decentralised network - then Diaspora still a good choice. You could also try Friendica as another privacy-orientated social network. A user in the comments section also recommends the decentralised social network Tent.

Tor

Of course, you’re not really anonymous online unless you use a VPN of some sort to shield your IP address. Tor is a free VPN that’s aimed at protecting people from state-level privacy intrusions. Tor is a great way to protect yourself online, but it isn’t perfect. The main problem is it allows anyone to set-up ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ nodes, through which your data travels (most people setting up nodes have good intentions, but if you don’t know who they are then how can you trust them not to spy on your traffic?). The other problem with TOR is that it generally offers slower speeds than a privately run VPN. Of course, we have to shamelessly toot our own horn here and recommend IVPN if you’re looking for a paid privacy-orientated VPN, with no bandwidth restrictions.

I2P

Yes we know the headline says top 5, but as commentators have pointed out, omitting I2P is a bit of an oversight. I2P is an overlay network that allows other software to use it for anonymous communication, including web browsing, sending messages, blogging and file transfers. It’s compatible with BitTorrent clients such as Vuze and the I2P instant messenger. I2P is currently in Beta, but the developers say the code is stable enough for use.

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Tags: Privacy

Comments

Anonymous

29.10.2012

Not seeing I2P on this list makes me wonder……

Oh The Shame

29.10.2012

So, Hushmail isn’t effective unless you, the user, encrypt your emails properly (and the receivers must do the same so they don’t send a reply in text form). Otherwise you’re putting your trust into hushmails private key, which is stored on their servers. I’m pretty sure they also gave up somebodies information before, too.

I2P isn’t listed on here. Very weird. I2P is ridiculously strong for anonymity. People can also fileshare using I2P which is unlike Tor where filesharing is discouraged.

Diaspora is basically a dead project. How about bringing some attention to Tent.io?

Also, Tor as a VPN? Really? Seriously? uhhuh….

If you’re trying to educate the masses on privacy and anonymity -> provide real information presented properly and elegantly explain the basics.

I wonder about this ivpn stuff. Very odd that you don’t know much about privacy and yet host a vpn………… which is not free…….

Yikes.

Dennis Kügler

29.10.2012

Thanks for you suggestions. I’ve incorporated them into the article. You’re right omitting I2P was a bit of an oversight. As you might know if you read this blog I tend to focus on legislative issues around online privacy, rather than privacy tools - so my knowledge may indeed be a little lacking. If anyone else has any ideas that we may have overlooked feel free to suggest them!

nr2

29.10.2012

Good Guy iVPN. Admits mistakes and corrects them! I usually find posts on here really informative actually

UWNThesis

21.05.2013

Totally agree with what you’ve got, but would add a couple of others.

  1. Search Engine

Startpage.com (EU privacy award)

Duckduckgo.com

Or alternative between both search engines.

  1. Block trackers

PrivacyFix.com - PrivacyFix works against your Linkedin, Google and Facebook profiles

Ghostery.com

  1. Easiest encryption for Windows users

Kruptos - a free trial is possible, and it’s licence by the person, so you can use at home or work

uwnthesis

24.07.2013

If anyone is interested in Privacy Tools, then an awesome starting place is Prism Break.

It includes free private cloud, anti tracking, private email etc.

https://prism-break.org/

Burung Hantu

29.03.2015

Hi Dennis, great article. This is definitely a good source of privacy related tools. But I wouldn’t recommend Ghostery anymore, instead HTTPS Everywhere, Request Policy and NoScript. I’ve created a website a couple of days ago about privacy tools here: http://www.privacytools.io/ and IVPN is also on the list. Bye

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