Exploring Privacy Tools

September 2, 2021
3 minutes

Electronic Frontier Foundation Membership

The brain has been hacked and its security patches come slowly. In order to avoid targeted ads and refining my digital consciousness, I’m making steady progress toward respectful technology.

After learning more about AI, I began to understand the importance of privacy. Everyone has their own reasons for protecting their data, and mine is to reduce the ability of models to fit me. This ties into preventing ad recommendations and other popular motivations broadly, but I doubt we understand the implications of modelling human behavior.

To limit my personal footprint, I began using Signal and Protonmail for private communication. My biggest challenge was converting my circles, but those closest to me tend to have similar interests. So after about a year and a half, I’m halfway there! I was initially content with protecting only my messages from peeping eyes; however I also began using private search.

My interests and experiences are reflected through what I search. Continuing along reducing my amount of training data, I began de-Googling. I haven’t completely removed Google searches from my life but DuckDuckGo has become a strong contender. Using !bangs, I’m able to search quickly when I have an idea of the category I’m looking for. When it comes to clueless searches, though, I still rely on Google.

After using DuckDuckGo for around a month, I saw a blog post about their beta email program. I just happened to be looking for a better email (in terms of readability), so I immediately signed up. After 43 days on the waitlist, I was able to register spence@duck.com. My friends might’ve been hesitant about transitioning messaging apps, but the duck email was a hit. Within a week of my fancy duck.com email, three friends were already waiting and hoping to claim their own name.

Using Signal, Protonmail, and DuckDuckGo is great, but I’m still on an iPhone. My recent drive toward privacy has been partially fueled by Apple’s personal photo hashing plans. As a way to escape the big i, I’ve been looking into a de-Googled Fairphone. I’m not sure I’ll be able to completely sever ties with these companies’ surveillance, but finding and testing alternatives seems like enough to me.

After Apple’s invasive proposal to scan all iCloud photos, I began to value the Free Software movement and the EFF’s initiative to protect internet freedoms. I’ll move to more free software and hardware, but the going’s slow. To use linux means I need to sacrifice battery life. And to use free software means I forgo a lot of convenience.

I want to purchase a Fairphone to support repairability and environmentally friendly practices. In addition, the Framework laptop seems incredible for the same reasons… but it’s sadly out of my budget for now.

Starting this in university is easier than after graduating and having work contacts, however, so I feel relieved about that. Throughout this process, some software has been incredibly useful in general and as alternatives.

Here’s my list of FOSS hardware and software


  1. Raspberry Pi
  2. Framework Laptop


  1. PinePhone Pro
  2. Fairphone
  3. Google Pixel 6 with Calyx OS

Operating Systems:

  1. Manjaro
  2. Debian


  1. VSCodium
  2. LibreOffice
  3. Audacity
  4. Gimp
  5. VLC Media Player
  6. DuckDuckGo


  1. Python
  2. Go
  3. Neovim