Disclaimer: I am neither a researcher nor otherwise affiliated with institutions actually fighting for or providing internet-anonymity or privacy.I WILL throw around technical terms that may stray from actual definitions. Nonetheless I want to share my knowledge, assumptions and advice as a computer scientist.

In the second post of my little “series” Get paranoid with me we took a few first steps towards achieving more online-privacy, through some practical software-suggestions and general guidelines. In todays post, we will dive deeper into the topic and look at more complex measures and ideas. That means, if you are absolutely not tech-savy, it is possible that this advice is impractical. Wlso there is no shame in not following all suggested measures at all times, since they are of course non-essential.

Let’s take it up a notch!

Again, we shall go through some more or less concrete suggestions of services to use or replace!

  • Get a VPN! This will shield your ISP and others from knowing what and where you spend your time online. I personally trust Mullvad, but there are a few trustworthy and affordable options out there.
  • Set up helpful browser-extensions: there is plenty of good extensions out there, such as blocking CDN-trackers, autodeleting cookies and more…
  • Your operating system: I’m sorry my friend, but the only reasonable choice can be some Linux-distribution; but do not despair, once you got the hang of it, you will be better off and have regained almost full control over your computer!
  • TOR-browser could be an overkill, but will keep you more secure and anonymous than your normal browser.
  • Your smartphone is your biggest liability! It goes wherever we go, and is permanently collecting and exchanging data with the environment and several services. There is however litte you can do about it, except from turning it off and blocking as many (Google-)services runnning as we can; one proper option would be to run a privacy-friendly custom Android-ROM on your phone, such as /e/OS or Lineage OS. Even better would be to exchange your smartphone for a dumbphone.

General guidelines

  • Payments say a lot: if you are serious about every aspect of your privacy, pay in cash or pay in crypto. Services that respect your privacy very often offer anonymous payment methods (of course payments in crypto are not anoymous by default).
  • Security is privacy; enable 2-factor authentication on as many services as possible.
  • Encryption is privacy: always favor encrypted services and enable encryption whereever it is offered!
  • Emphasizing on the previous point: set up hard drive encryption for your devices. Whatever OS or device you are using, there is most likely encryption software available.
  • Quit social networks; they are in direct conflict with our privacy-goals and do more harm then good.

On this compilation of recommendations

Of course this list is very short and contains only a handful of more or less useful suggestions, without deeper evidence or reasoning. I think however, that this list touches enough aspects of privacy-measures to paint a general picture of things that need to be considered. I believe that everyone who is seriously interested can use this post as a starting point and find their way to solutions and measures that fit them best.

And moreover, an important point to make is that, even when following all of the mentioned measures religiously, your privacy is not a 100% protected by default; the measures set a frame and provide you with a stable environment in which you are more private, but ultimately it is your behaviour that determines, how private you are. Changing your devices, software and services will do only so much, if you don’t have the proper mindset accompanying it: be paranoid, be critical, be stubborn. Don’t rely on or trust any service or platform too much.

It’s not as hard as it seems

For my part, after gradually adapting more and more privacy-preserving behaviours, I can say, however uncomfortable things may seem sometimes, in the end, there is not a lot to miss and life works just the same as before, even if you dont have the hippest 5 new productivity apps installed. It is a rather calming underlying satisfaction, that you are in full control of your data and that technology no longer dictates you.

So with another wise quote i want to end this post:

The compromises in favor of privacy are often not sacrifices but blessings in disguise.