The purpose of the Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness about privacy and data protection. On this occasion, our team got together to share with you their tips to improve your privacy in your everyday life.
It is now well known that each action on the internet leaves its trace: our data is collected, sold for commercial and promotional purposes. One might think that there is no escape from it. Evidently, this situation violates our fundamental rights, especially our privacy and it must stop.
Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your internet and smartphone usage in regards to privacy and sustainability! Yes, your data consumption and daily use has a huge impact and creates tons of CO2 emissions.
If we look back at this data collection research led by Professor Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, your smartphone (Android, iPhone…) sends to Google from 6 to 12 MB of profiling information per day. Imagine how much information this represents for 4 billion smartphones used daily across the globe, and how much electricity is needed to collect this information, transmit it over wifi and broadband to huge data centers all over the world.
In a few years, Internet traffic has boomed to require 10% of the world’s electricity and accounts for nearly 4% of the planet’s CO2 emissions. Briefly speaking, by limiting our internet traffic, by protecting our data, we consume less energy and thus we reduce drastically our CO2 emissions.
Without any further ado, we would like to share with you simple habits and tips to improve your privacy. Let’s discover what our team members use on their daily basis!
Meet in this conversation:
Alexandre and Vincent, our /e/ dev team members
Jonathan, Android Tech lead
Shenol, customer support specialist
Mahbub, design team member
Aude, product owner
Romain, OS engineering manager
Akhill, infrastructure team engineer
Camille, customer support specialist
Jo, a contributor
Aayush, software engineer
Alexis, Chief Operating Officer
and Gaël Duval, /e/ Founder and project leader
We would like first of all to share with you some good habits that will allow you to use the internet with more safety. “Compartmentalize your life”, - says Camille. “Have multiple email address or phone number in order to separate your activities”. Romain and Mahbub also prefer not to use the same app, service or company for everything.
Another tip, which might already be well-known is to use a VPN on every device in order to hide which website your are visited to your ISP (it can actually increase the speed if the ISP slows down on purpose the speed of some specific activities like streaming). Make sure you choose a VPN service that doesn’t capture user logs. There are many VPN services out there, and the ones making the most amount of noise aren’t always the most mindful with your privacy.
It should become your reflex to deny cookies that are not indicated as essential on websites or use the button Deny all if available, adds Aude.
Moreover, Aayush recommends to disable advertisement personalization whenever possible.
To use Google or not to use Google? That is the question.
Obviously, our recommendation would be no. But if you still need it for some reason, remember Jonathan’s tip while using Google to disable Google Assistant as well as other Google features regarding marketing, history, YouTube history. Whereas, Shenol prefers not to use Google account at all. Alexander uses Qwant maps instead of Google Maps on web browser.
Akhill underlines that if moving from Google, make sure you delete your account or log out from all apps. Otherwise, you might still be logged in on some service you use with your Google account.
Mahbub uses /e/OS devices and services “to stay safe from Google data logging tactics”.
How do you protect your smartphone?
All our team uses a privacy focused operating system on their phone, such as /e/OS, in order to prevent Google and the manufacturer of the phone to collect a lot of information about you.
Camille also advises you to put your SIM card on a spare phone and turn it on only when you need to use the SIM card, or if it’s not possible at least be in airplane mode and disable it only when you need your SIM card. (The ISP knows your location as long as your are connected to the network). Furthermore, being in airplane mode and using Wi-Fi instead of 4G/5G will increase your battery life a lot.
How do you protect your computer?
First and foremost, Gaël Duval finds it essential “to encrypt your hard drive on your PC, as well as encrypt your smartphone for storage”.
Camille uses Linux on computer (Ubuntu or Zorin OS for starters). It can be installed alongside Windows, in order to prevent Microsoft from collecting data and use an open-source operating system.
Always search for an open-source or at least privacy friendly alternative. There are more alternatives than you think (https://alternativeto.net/ can help).
What about the apps ?
To begin, almost all our team members advise you to use open source apps as much as you can or privacy friendly apps on your phone or your computer, and never give useless permissions. When possible, don’t give your phone number to an app neither your phone contacts access. Romain also advises you to check regularly apps installed on your phone, and uninstall the one you are not using.
For messaging Jonathan and Camille choose Signal, Telegram and DeltaChat instead of WhatsApp or traditional phone call and SMS, in order to hide who you are talking to and what you say. Their habits are also shared by Gaël, who is, on the other hand, wondering whether the NSA would possibly be able to break Signal’s and possibly other’s instant messaging encryption algorithms.
“Use an app like Shelter to isolate some apps you know are “bad”. Of course, if you put a lot of apps or even all your apps there it looses its interest”, - Aude says.
Speaking of Facebook, that uses a large amount of your personal data for commercial purposes, Alexandre uses Facebook container on Firefox. Furthermore, Mahbub uses the web version of Facebook instead of the app if needed.
And last but not least, check the number of trackers built-in your apps (with a service like Exodus Privacy). Don’t forget that /e/OS reveals to its users the number of trackers present in the apps.
What about YouTube?
Romain uses NewPipe application to watch YouTube video in order to avoid to be tracked by their algorithm, and invited to watch another video. Alexandre underlines invidious that can be used instead of YouTube.
Which browser do you use?
Camille, Prajwal, Vincent, Alexandre and Jonathan prefer using a privacy focused web browser (such as Duckduckgo, Firefox or Brave) and advise you to increase the default level of protection to skip trackers. Romain also reminds us to use add blocker on your browser. For example, Alexandre uses TrackerControl.
Did you know that /e/OS is not only very protective of privacy, but it also comes with a mobile browser including an ad-blocker by default, so it is highly recommended!
What about the emails?
Use a privacy focused email provider such as ProtonMail or Tutanota, which can’t read your emails and offer anti-tracker protection. Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail are thus not recommended because your contents are read and analyzed systematically by those providers.
But remember that when you email a friend or relative using Gmail or Yahoo from a privacy focused email provider, your email has to be sent unencrypted in order for your friends or relatives to be able to read it.
You can go one step beyond encrypting your emails using a PGP key. PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy and has became one of the best options out there for email and messaging encryption. By using a combination of a public key and a private key to encrypt and share your messages, only you and the recipients can read and access the content of the email or the message.
In /e/OS and our default Mail app, we feature OpenKeychain so you can manage your PGP key and PGP keys from your friends and relatives and send and receive encrypted emails right from your phone.
Finally and in contrast, our ecloud also offers a fully integrated ecosystem with your individual mail account, your agenda, calendar, cloud storage for your files and backup and an online office suite respecting your data privacy.
Use disposable email address. “If you need to enter your email address somewhere just to have access to something but you know you won’t use the service later, use services that create a temporary email address (you can easily find a lot of them). This way you don’t have to share your real email address”, Camille claims.
“Check if one of your account has been compromised: https://monitor.firefox.com/ It’s more about security but it’s still important.” Camille
“Don’t deal with the net giants. Delete your big techs accounts, don’t install their apps and don’t use their services as much as possible.” Camille
Jo, one of our contributors, is mastering the full safety! His approach is as follows:
“Remove your laptop’s wifi/bluetooth chip. Remove the camera. Hide your phone’s camera. On the Xiaomi mi a1, you can pull the screen off a little bit because the paste is badly designed and put a sticker for the front camera and nobody will notice it. I also made an oval-shaped piece of paper that I can put on the back-camera”.
+ Bonus for the advanced users
Use artix to say “bye SystemD” and the smallest window manager ever: dwm.
Also, use vim for coding, not jetbrains’s IDEs that now ask for credentials.
Mahbub shares: “Use an app like Insular to create separate profiles for shopping, if you use Ecommerce apps, and do not use anything else in that container”.
Our /e/ team is working hard to bring to your phone privacy by design operation system in order to protect your data and the environment. To conclude, our best privacy tip will be as follows: use /e/OS on your smartphone or get the Murena phone on our shop with preinstalled /e/OS, create your e.email and use ecloud that allows you to self-host your data and avoid trackers. Because your data is YOUR data!
We hope that some of our tips were useful and surprising for you at some point. Please, share with us your own tips in the comments and let’s discuss the ones shared above! Which ones do you already use and which ones you have discovered?
Additional references :
- Guillaume Pitron: “L’enfer Numérique”