Privacy options for email, browsing, maps, etc. that actually work and are easy?

I’m not super big on privacy, but it’s in my mind. I’m DEFINITELY not the type of person to have an Alexa or Google Dot. That’s way to invasive for me. And I don’t like apps that would connect to a home appliance that shares data with the developer, etc. I just turn stuff on by hand. Having said that, Google Search is fantastic. Google maps is fantastic. Google calendar is a life saver. Apple mail works very very well etc. Don’t worry- I think Bing sucks. LOL.

Anyways, I’m not the type to go really deep into privacy, where I’m concerned something is passing through a server somewhere owned by Musk or something. You know what I mean. But I’ve been wondering if there are some simple, rudimentary steps or choices I could be making about this that would help. Or if folks feel like it’s sort of lost cause in the modern world?

The problem is often convenience. I still need to run my life and run my business and connect with my family. Does anyone have any input on this? I’ll divide it into a few parameters-

Search Engine and Browing-
For example, I was thinking of using DuckDuckGo as my search engine. Is it any good? Does it provide any real privacy or anonymity?
Is there a browser that does this in general?

Email and Calendaring-
I have similar questions about email, calendaring, etc. but it seems like its innate in the usage of gmail that it’s going to be invasive. Is that true? Or a misconception? Or is there some settings I can use?

Maps and GeoLocation-
I was looking at the LightPhone2 the other day (too simple for me probably- definitely too simple for work. A total non-starter for that, but maybe as a weekend phone?), and it has the Here Maps app. Partly to keep things private. Still, honestly, being able to geo-locate myself on a map in real time with updated traffic is a lifesaver, since I drive around a lot in my job. Essential? No. But very useful.

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So a caveat about Duck Duck Go (and all other browsers except TOR) as regards to privacy, something to bear in mind is that while it’s certainly better than Chrome or Edge in it’s defaults and attempts to privatize browsing, a fundamental thing is that Google or Bing is still the back end search engine in 99% of cases

What Duck Duck go does is attempt to block trackers being installed by various websites (though that’s pretty much whack a mole at present) as well as attempt to prevent thigs like Geolocation requests.

Additionally it essentially does a wipe between sessions so that attempts at tracking at the local level can also be thwarted to at least some degree.

But if someone is determined and patient enough to track you, they still can with inferences and reference to your IP address.

The one browser that is actually best at obfuscating what you do is the Tor Browser at it will advertise “fake” IP. MAC and Geolocation data in attempts to thwart as much as possible that type of tracking. (which is why drug dealers like it…)

OTOH the TOR browser is far from suitable as a general purpose browser IMHO.

That all being said, I’m of the opinion that while I still resent the tracking and attempt to mine my data, I also believe that I’m not important enough for it to be worth the effort on the hackers’ part to go after me.

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Well, it really depends on how far you’re willing to go. But if keeping in touch with family is important, that’s one area you’re really not going to get far; they aren’t going to switch to Signal.

For email, Tutanota or Proton Mail are good choices. Though I can’t really speak as to how secure they actually are.

For browsing, the ultimate option is Tor, but something based on Firefox is your best bet. Search engine wise… I guess DuckDuckGo, but as far as I know they still allow Microsoft trackers.

Here Maps isn’t as ‘bad’ as Google Maps, but it still tracks you. If you don’t mind not having traffic updates, then there’s OpenStreetMap. Though different apps and services that use OSM data will have their own policies.

Honestly though, unless you are in a repressive country (and I mean truly repressive like Myanmar or Russia) or are a political activist against such regimes or a journalist reporting on them; it’s not worth the hassle. If you’re an official or work for a company that requires privacy; that’s on the government or your employer to provide you with the devices and services.

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BTW; The best bang for the buck effort you can make browser wise , if you feel a bit paranoid about this, is an option in settings in Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari, that clears browsing data every time you quit or restart the app.

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I’m also a bit paranoid about my privacy being compromised, not because I think I’m important enough for it to be worth the effort on hackers to track me, but I don’t like the idea that someone may be gathering data that can be used to create a profile of me regarding my health or my consumer preferences. If it happens, I may be more vulnerable when negotiating a health insurance, or my behavior may be affected by the information I get when browsing on the Internet if the results depend on the searcher’s profile.

I’m aware that avoiding to be tracked nowadays is an almost impossible task, but at least I try to make it as difficult as I can. One of the things I do is using Firefox with these three plug-ins: uBlock Origin to minimize the amount of ads I get; Privacy Badger to block trackers (sometimes I have to disable it, because it makes some websites not work); and Cookie AutoDelete, which automatically delete cookies when closing tabs. Even if I navigate most of the time with my VPN activated, I’m afraid all theses mesures are not enough to prevent some agents to create a profile of me, but I try to do my best to avoid it.

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Several complete guidance for you:

  1. https://www.privacytools.io/
  2. Opt out of global data surveillance programs like PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora - PRISM Break - PRISM Break (perhaps the best one of the earliest guidance for privacy and anti-PRISM especially, but not in frequent updates recently, as many of its users/fans migrated to the 1st website above)
  3. degoogle | A huge list of alternatives to Google products. Privacy tips, tricks, and links. (focusing on alternatives to Google’s products and services, with privacy in mind)

I personally use StartPage.com, as all its results are from Google search, so it’s basically a proxy to Google search while hiding your identity, whereas DuckDuckGo implements its own search algorithm so the results are different from Google search.

Regarding email, if you are fine with paying money to buy encrypted and privacy-focus email services, then there are quite a lot of options (see the 1st website above, for example). If you don’t want to pay, then either

  • Proton Mail (500MB, strongest encryption but limited functionality such as folder/tag/email filters), or
  • Tutanota (1GB, very strong encryption but very limited functionality - even more limited than Proton Mail), or
  • Disroot.org (1GB, acceptable/good enough encryption, with the best functionality available, e.g., unlimited folders and incoming email filters, etc., plus its IMAP/POP and SMTP server/ports are accessible).

I personally use all the 3 above for different purposes. And more recently, a really nice service called simplelogin.io, can allow you to create many email aliases (up to 15 for a free account) for your “true” email address, and moreover, you can even send email from your created alias by using their “reverse-alias” service (see Send emails from your alias - SimpleLogin Docs), which will keep you true email address hidden and it’s been recently acquired by Proton AG - the company hosting the Proton Mail, so it’s reliable enough.

Alternatives to other services such as maps & etc. can be found in the 3 websites above.

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You can try the Cookie AutoDelete as suggested at Best Privacy Browser Extensions in 2022 - Anti Tracking and degoogle | A huge list of alternatives to Google products. Privacy tips, tricks, and links.. Note: it will auto-delete (or manually if you change the setting) not only the cookies, but ALL website-stored data in your browser, and you can control what to delete.