Take back your privacy: Part 3
Catch up on this three-part post by reading Part 1 and Part 2, in which I discuss the best alternative to Google search and the two main alternatives for browsers, as well as various privacy add-ons. I also touch on the current state of digital privacy, security and surveillance.
With roots in the CERN project in Switzerland, the Proton team started ProtonMail simply as a controllable means to communicate privately and securely with colleagues and other professionals. Since then, ProtonMail has increasingly become the name on many people’s lips when it comes to talk of private email in today’s world of Gmail and Hotmail, both of which happily retain full access to the contents of your emails, from which they’ll waste no time in gleaning any information that will bring further profit, by selling it on to third parties.
It’s a sad state that today the biggest companies with the most money and power are those that are taking to pulling the wool over the eyes of countless millions of users while they seek to do nothing but profit. Take any of their policies, which will always feature stock phrases like “We care about your privacy”, and read between the lines.
ProtonMail, however, is a company which values privacy for all its users. You can either go basic with a free account, which will get you 1 user, 1 address and 500MB storage, or splash out on a range of paid options, which offer a whole lot more. ProtonMail has a clean, modern interface once you’re logged in. All email between ProtonMail users will automatically be end-to-end encrypted for ultimate privacy and security. But don’t worry if all your friends are still using Gmail or Hotmail. Messages sent to any generic address can be secured with a passphrase. This means that only once your intended recipient has entered this agreed passphrase will they be able to read the contents of the email.
“Privacy is a right, not a feature.” These are some of the first words you’ll see when visiting the Mailfence site, home of more privacy-centred email servicing which puts the user before profit. Mailfence is one of those email sites you don’t hear about very often, but is one that you’ll want to remember if you’re looking for no-frills email that focuses on privacy and security above fancy design.
With servers in Belgium, information requests must go through a court order before getting anywhere. This is due to Belgium’s strong privacy protection laws. Add on top of this a passionate team for whom “privacy is a fundamental human right”, and you can trust your email is in safe hands: “No ads, no spams, no trackers, no solicitations, no backdoor, free from government surveillance.” Imagine a world where this was the norm…
Mailfence launched in 1999 and since then has hardened its servers and sought out an SSL certificate with no American association, in order to offer a unique end-to-end encrypted email solution for everyone. The result is just about everything you could want in an email service: POPS, IMAPS, SMTPS, calendars, documents, groups, and the option to create, import, publish and manage OpenPGP keys. All of this is wrapped up in an easy package in your browser.
Let’s finish with one of the most popular, surest methods of taking back your privacy online. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been around for years, but it’s only recently, much like many other privacy tools, that there’s been a considerable increase in demand.
A VPN works by establishing an encrypted tunnel from your router or device to the VPN’s own server. From here, the server will pass on your data to your desired location. The key thing to consider here is, once again, what kind of sensitive data you’re hoping to send over the network. VPNs will either be free with limited features, or paid subscriptions providing extras such as the ability to connect multiple devices and connect to hundreds of servers around the world.
As well as enabling professionals to securely communicate and share work, and providing users access to certain censored content, VPNs are one of the best ways to hide your online activity from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who, especially in the UK, have an outrageous amount of freedom when it comes to tracking their customers' online activity.
ProtonVPN brings with it much the same reliability and quality in features as Proton’s email service, and if you choose to go for the ‘Visionary’ paid plan, the VPN service will be thrown in as an included feature. ProtonVPN boasts plenty of reliable servers all over the world, as well as clean, stylish apps for mobile and desktop. So you can rest assured you have one of the best privacy tools at your disposal whenever you’re at home or on the road.