I'm intentional about Privacy

For the longest time my mindset about Privacy had been “if I’ve got nothing to hide, I don’t need to worry about it”, and I know a lot of other people think similarly.

Then, back in 2016, I read something that changed my mind. Drastically.

Secrecy vs Privacy

Everyone knows what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door.

So, what you do in the bathroom isn’t a secret, but you want it to be a private affair.

This was a game changer for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have secrets (like everyone), but this is about making sure that what I want to be private, remains private.

So it’s not about the things I want to hide from everyone, but about the things I am just not interested in having anyone seeing.

Applying Mindfulness

For a long time I’ve been wanting to be less dependent on companies I don’t believe have core values aligned with mine (especially around methods of advertising and data mining), and this was a big chance to look around and choose ones that I think are more aligned and I’d love to support more.

So I looked for companies who were "smaller", bootstrapped, and profitable. Their apps should also use end-to-end encryption.

Changes so far

These are roughly the changes I’ve made so far:

  1. I'm using Signal or WhatsApp (if iMessage isn't possible) instead of Hangouts for IM (painless; SMS are very rare for me);
  2. I'm using DuckDuckGo instead of Google (mostly painless);
  3. I'm using Safari Technology Preview and Firefox Nightly instead of Google Chrome (I only have 1Password as an extension, so it was painless);
  4. I'm using ProtonMail instead of Gmail/Inbox (this was a big one, and it’s been painless after a couple of days of initial setup);
  5. I'm using Apple/iCloud Maps, Reminders, Numbers, and Pages, instead of Google’s Maps, Reminders, Sheets, and Docs (took a couple of days to move everything over, and painless afterwards);
  6. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, and a few more lesser-known social media accounts (I hadn’t really used them in a long time anyway — painless);
  7. I'm using AdGuard (DuckDuckGo and some other domains whitelisted — painless);
  8. I'm using ProtonVPN on all of our devices (painless);
  9. I’m using Nopes in our laptops ever since the first Kickstarter came out.
  10. I'm using a self-hosted Nextcloud instance with end-to-end encryption instead of Google Drive, Calendar, and Contacts. It's negligible to maintain and it has a nice UX and great search. I'm also looking forward to ProtonDrive having sharing + search, and to implement CalDAV + CardDAV for moving over Calendar + Contacts.
  11. For many years I didn't have any analytics at all, but eventually was curious to see which of my apps was getting more traffic, so I've started using Fathom for privacy-respecting analytics, and I've been a happy customer since 2019 (that's an affiliate link where you'll get $10 off).

Suggestions (for you and me)

I would love to see some nice alternatives for:

  1. iCloud/Apple Maps/Photos/Reminders/Numbers/Pages (it’s fine right now, but I’d prefer not be tied to an ecosystem, and I’m expecting ProtonMail will improve their alternatives eventually)

Here are some things I learned and suggestions I’d make if you’re planning on tackling any of these changes:

  1. Don’t try to export your past data (emails, calendar events, reminders). Focus on having data flowing into the new places instead. Let bygones be bygones. Ideally delete old data if you can.
  2. You don’t need to pay for basic privacy services and products, but if you want good quality you should, and when you do, you’re supporting those who are “going against the flow”, and if you think the flow is heading in the wrong direction, your support helps fight that.
  3. I had a bad experience with AirVPN and gave up TunnelBear and NordVPN over strange business decisions.
  4. I used Sync for a few months instead of Google Drive, before finding Tresorit, but their UX and UI were very poor, and they had no local search. Tresorit also turned out to have terrible customer support, so I eventually migrated to a self-hosted Nextcloud system.
  5. I've also used uBlock Origin before AdGuard (the latter made it a lot easier to switch browsers as I please — I don't keep anything in sync, and only have one extension for 1Password).

If you have any good tips or questions, I’d love to hear all about it!