Monthly Archives: February 2021

Privacy and Security

Tech Advice for Privacy & Security from a Tech Guy

It’s a really good time to focus on privacy and security and I want to provide you a comprehensive list of software and services that I personally use online. Let’s jump into my Top 5 list of recommendations:

  1. Browser – Download Brave and use it as your default web browser for your mobile phone and desktop computer. Brave stops online surveillance, blocks ads, loads content faster, and will use less battery on your mobile device.
  2. Search – Configure your Brave browser to use DuckDuckGo for searching the Internet. You can also navigate directly to their website for searching. DuckDuckGo does not collect personal information. And if they don’t collect it, they can’t share (or sell) it.
  3. E-mail – Set up a free e-mail account on ProtonMail and start using it as your default e-mail address for social media accounts, banking, political newsletters, and anything else where privacy is important to you. Encourage others to also set up ProtonMail accounts so that messages sent to each other will be secure. E-mails sent outside of ProtonMail (such as to Gmail accounts) will not be secure and can be collected and retrieved by your Government.
  4. Messaging – Download Signal to your smartphone and desktop computers for chat messaging. Encourage others to use Signal so that your messages are encrypted and secure. Android phones can also use Signal as their default SMS application which makes it convenient to have all your messages in one place. It’s important to know that any message sent via SMS (regular text messages) are not secure and can be collected and retrieved by your Government.
  5. Passwords – It’s so important to use complex and unique passwords for all your online accounts. Never use the same password, never write your passwords in an unencrypted document on your computer, and never write your passwords on a piece of paper and leave it out for others to see (lock it in a safe if you do this). There are many software solutions that can help you generate and manage passwords. I personally use LastPass. You can use LastPass for free with many browsers including Brave or you can upgrade to a paid service to get a few extra features. At a cost of less than a cup of coffee per month, I think it’s worth it. You need to start using a password management system or you run the risk of using weak passwords that can be easily guessed. If someone gets control of your e-mail account they can start resetting passwords at other websites including your financial institutions. It can get ugly fast. I cannot stress this enough… use strong, secure passwords! LastPass has a password generator that creates passwords using a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols (ex: F96zglS&w#q). I personally have mine set up to generate 10-12 random characters. You don’t have to write the passwords down or remember all of them because the password management software will do it for you (some will even fill it in when you visit various websites). All you need to do is remember just one password, the one to your password management software. Do it!

I think you’ll be in good shape if you follow the above advice. If you want to hear my thoughts on smartphones, social networks, and news sources then keep on reading.

Best Smartphone

Should you buy an iPhone or Android phone? Apple and Google have two completely different business models. Apple likes you to pay good money for their hardware and software and in return they protect your privacy. Google likes to give you lots of free software and services and in return profit off your personal data (searches, buying habits, etc). Apple’s iPhone wins in terms of privacy over Google’s Android. However, the iPhone falls short in terms of customization of features and the installation of software. One obvious example of this is Android allowing Signal to be used as my default SMS application. The iPhone does not permit changing your SMS application from iMessage.

The iPhone also doesn’t allow installation of software from sources other than Apple’s App Store. It’s my phone and I want the option of installing software from other places just like I do on my desktop computer. Android phones can be configured to support this. You can’t really have the best of both worlds right now in terms of privacy and customization. I’m hoping in the future we get new Android vendors that are more widely supported and focused on privacy.

My recommendation, if you are not a technical person I would just stick with an iPhone for now. It’s important to remember that your privacy is really only as good as the apps you have installed and are actively using.

Best Social Network

Most people will define the best social network as the place where their friends and family are active. However, in my opinion there really isn’t a best social network because at this point none can be trusted with your personal information. If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix yet and you don’t understand that last sentence, I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit are too big, too powerful, and have too much of a political agenda. They also clearly do not support free speech. I recently watched the big tech monopolies of Apple, Google, and Amazon conspire to destroy Parler, a new pro-free speech social media platform gaining in popularity. The coordinated attack by these extremely powerful companies was my inspiration for this article.

There are other smaller social networks that claim to support free speech such as Gab, MeWe, Minds, and Clouthub. Parler has also recently relaunched using their own servers. I really don’t know if any of them will take off. Gab seems to be the furthest ahead because they have been fighting big tech censorship for the longest amount of time. Both Gab and Parler have been banned from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. However, you can still access them using your mobile browser.

If we’re going to continue using social media/networking to connect with the world, I think we should go back to the days of internet forums like Twit recently launched. Smaller communities that aren’t being run by giant tech corporations are the best option. It’s also easy to start your own community by using a decentralized service such as Mastodon. Mastodon is a better option over internet forums and traditional social networks because it’s a decentralized platform. This makes it almost impossible for big tech to shutdown.

Best News Source

It’s impossible to pick the best news source because all of the giant media companies are untrustworthy. Rather than report objective news and information, media companies are now more focused on sensationalizing stories for clicks and advertising dollars. Everyone seems to have their preference, but I’m starting to think news is very much like social media in that they become echo chambers. Spending too much of your time on any one platform or news source is a bad idea. The truth seems to be harder to find these days and many of the fact checkers appear to be slanted, especially when it comes to politics. It would be great to have honest news sources and currently smaller outfits like OANN and The Epoch Times seem to do a good job.

I still prefer listening to independent podcasts such as No Agenda, Scott Adams, Joe Rogan, and several others. No Agenda with John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry is hands-down my favorite podcast. They deconstruct the mainstream media’s coverage of politics in a humorous way. Scott Adams always provides unique insights on various topics. Joe Rogan is one of the best long-form interviewers out there. In particular his interviews with Elon Musk are some of my personal favorites. None of these podcasters are controlled by big media companies or sponsors. I created the Playapod app so that I could subscribe to podcasts without censorship or the selling of my private data. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Do you have additional recommendations to protect your privacy and security? Drop me a comment below and let’s chat. Thanks!