The problem

Many popular cloud applications collect enormous amounts of information on their users. They then create very precise profiles and use them for targeted ads or more nefarious purposes. Raising awareness of the issue, and providing ways to reduce it, is a worthy goal.

What we can do

Open Source and Privacy are of great interest to me, so I was very pleased when I ran into Awesome Privacy a few weeks ago. It is a list, hosted on GitHub¹, of free services and applications providing alternatives to many common services, with a focus on the preservation of privacy. The list is organized by categories (search engines, cloud storage, social networks, etc.). In each category, it shows the classic services (sometimes pointing to explanations of their privacy issues when not obvious), and proposes a selection of alternatives.

On the list, one can locate of course the usual suspects such as e.g., Firefox, Nextcloud or LineageOS, but I discovered many interesting ones of which I was not aware. A few handpicks:

  • Molly, a hardened version of the Signal secure messaging app;
  • Wikiless, which brought to my attention the issue with Wikipedia;
  • Stegcloak, a clever tool than hides secrets using invisible Unicode characters.

Self-hosted applications are typical for service alternatives, and therefore require a bit of technical skills to deploy. On the other hand, there are also many tools that are very user-friendly. Overall, I believe everyone will find something they can play with.

An evolving resource

The maintainers of the list seem very active, and strive to have it improve over time as new apps become available. They encourage people to engage in discussions, contribute new entries and expand the list for the benefit of all.

The site also features a few nice quotes regarding privacy, useful for those conversations with people who don’t see it as important. 🙂

I only scratched the surface of the many tools presented by this resource, and I will certainly have fun discovering more. I hope you will too!

— Christian

¹ Yes, they are working to move away from GitHub 😉