Apps for (a bit) more privacy

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Privacy on social media

Facebook uses you personally for advertising. Friends see what you like or where you were, and the social network makes it look like you’re personally behind a particular product. You may not like the fact that you are being so instrumentalized.

To clean up Facebook’s privacy settings very quickly, you can use the wizard of the third-party app “Jumbo”. The tool is a kind of privacy scanner. You log in to Facebook within the app (Jumbo says you don’t send data about your social media log-ins to your own servers). The built-in assistant then confronts you with your previous privacy settings in Facebook, explains the individual points such as the ones above, and sets the recommended settings at the touch of a button. You can even archive and download your old wall entries.

Jumbo dominates …

  • Facebook (Messenger)
  • Google (YouTube, Maps, Chrome)
  • Twitter
  • Amazon Alexa

If you are using Facebook on your smartphone, you could use the alternative for more privacy SlimSocial Use. This also includes a rudimentary chat function, so it also replaces the messenger. We introduce the app in a separate article:

Privacy when surfing the mobile

When you’re browsing on a mobile browser or within an app, there are two ways to improve the protection of your privacy. Browser apps themselves offer many options for more privacy. Frequently you can see the following functions …

Advertising Blocker have gone through an evolution. Many modern mobile browsers advertise with an integrated ad blocker. However, this only blocks particularly annoying or even malizious advertising banners. Thomas Konrad von der Cliqz Ltd., the company behind the browser of the same name, explains:

“The strong blocking technology (from Cliqz), which is also used in the sister brand Ghostery, protects against advertisements that are “only” annoying, but also blocks dangerous ads that spread malware. And cryptojacking is also blocked, which protects against the misuse of your devices by crypto-miners.”

The advantage of this form of ad-blocking is that websites can continue to refinance their content with advertising revenue. This means more real posts for readers, which are provided for them free of charge and fewer “sponsored posts”.

Phishing Protection remains also an important but often overlooked issue. It is not uncommon for users – sometimes targeted – to register in an online service and to solve an urgent problem (e.g. PayPal, eBay, Amazon etc. demand money). The link contained therein leads the user to a fake log-in page. Appropriately protected mobile browsers recognize such pages and warn the user that someone wants to steal the password, identity or possibly money.

Anti-tracking you can implement with the browser app, but more extensively with VPN services. But what is tracking? On the Internet there are now several advertising networks that track you from page to page and thus get a comprehensive picture of your habits. Instant free relief promise browsers like Cliqz, Aloha Or Firefox Clear.

However, the protection is made more extensive with a separate VpnService. It routes all your Internet connections through a third-party server. The can then block connections to certain tracker networks or feed them with incorrect information. The VPN app from Disconnect. This costs 50 US dollars per year, similar to most competitors.

The highlight of Disconnect is that the VPN service provider focuses on the big tracker networks Facebook, Google and Twitter. You can use a switch to specifically exclude the three networks from your data connections. This is also useful in mobile apps, as they are often equipped unnoticed with third-party trackers (usually from the three mentioned above).

One step further, you go by Goal. This peer-to-peer system directs your connection across a decentralized network of multiple users around the world, jumping back and forth between different nodes. Not even the individual participants on the network can track the full path of the connection. TOR provides access to highly anonymized Web sites, including messaging services and e-mail clients. Access can be obtained via the appropriately prepared Tor Browser.

Private Messenger: Chat Anonymous

We are somewhat powerless towards the popular messenger networks WhatsApp, Telegram and Co. Here we have to trust that they handle our chats, the meta data (who chats with whom) as well as our mobile contacts carefully. Ideally, in sensitive situations, we switch to an anonymous messenger such as Session, Threema or Surespot.

In certain situations, the operator should also not know with whom you exchanged data and when. This is because jurisdictions in some countries may force operators to hand over this data. So you could also be innocently accused of aiding and abetting illegal activities. Consider, for example, that WhatsApp allows any user to add you in groups by default.

AndroidPIT session messenger id2
Some Messengers don’t want to know anything private about you. / © AndroidPIT

Privacy for photos and documents

Many Android users resort to Google’s enticing offer to copy endless photos and videos into cloud storage for free. This is extremely convenient and (from a pure back-up perspective) safe, as your photos are secured even after a smartphone theft or defect. You can also access photos from all your devices. The same applies to documents. Many companies and schools use Google Docs and Sheets to work together on the documents.

Here too, however, caution is needed. Google openly admits that it scans your photos and documents to optimize facial, object, or font recognition algorithms. If you don’t like the scanning process or the potentially resulting monitoring algorithms, consider an alternative to Google Photos and Google Drive.

OnlyOffice and/or NextCloud offer similar convenience. These open source products, which are now growing together, can either be installed free of charge on their own servers. Or you can use one of the many hosting services that take care of the installation and maintenance effort. One of the providers would be the German cloud operator Ionos.

Private, encrypted emails

E-mail services are also coming under increasing pressure to “make money” with their operators. Especially free services such as Googlemail (Gmail) go to work partly with obvious methods. Not only does the Gmail app often display promotional emails in your inbox (after all, as Display marked). In addition, Google blatantly admits to reading your emails by machine and to pass the evaluation anonymously to third parties. I do not know if all your contacts would agree with this.

For a comprehensive breakdown of fewer and more trusted email services, visit the blog Restore PrivacyTop candidates are characterized by tracker freedom, complete anonymity and encryption. Among other things, the author recommends …

  • Tutanota (English)
  • ProtonMail (Swiss)
  • Mailbox.org (German)
  • Posteo (English)
  • Mailfence (Belgian)

Private Hardware

Another problem with mobile anonymity is the smartphone itself. Even if you follow all the rules of data protection in the software, the hardware can become a worry child. The US company Purism – actually known for privacy-optimized Linux laptops – develops and optimizes together with the German engineer Nicole Faerber (interview) a privacy-optimized smartphone.

The first attempt at walking of the project is plagued by bitter findings. Because hardly any manufacturer of embedded hardware wants to expose the schematics of his chipsets or modems. Occasionally, even regulators go further on the grounds that certain information should not be made public for security reasons.

However, after thirty years of Windows at the latest, we should know that “Security by Obscurity” does not work: if secrecy were effective protection, there would be no malware for the closed-source operating system.

As a result, much of the mainstream hardware remains a black box for us. We don’t know what the modem is reading in the lower smartphone (thanks to unrestricted access to memory) and with whom it shares the data. And since the majority of these components are developed in the US or China, any mistrust is well-founded.

Conclusion

Even if your control over your data is limited, you can still give it to curious third parties.o make it difficult as possible. Encrypts and filters data streams, cuts the path to trackers, blurs your tracks. If you have “nothing to hide,” think of your responsibility towards your contacts and friends. Their profile is also sharpened on the basis of the data generated around them.

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