NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, etc

Is the information age unleashing the Panopticon or unlocking the Doors of Perception?
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NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, etc

Post by Gutenberg » Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:21 pm

Governmental snooping: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL and Skype.

The recent surveillance scandal has brought to the light the disturbing fact that many of the services we daily use, are insecure against Governmental snooping. The whistle blower Edward Snowden risked imprisonment by leaking confidential NSA documents that proved without a shadow of doubt that the American government have access to more information about us than most of us are comfortable with. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL and Skype provide services that in many ways is the very backbone of the way most people use the Internet, but all these companies have willingly provided the NSA with direct access to their services.

We have nothing to hide, yet we believe that our use of the Internet is the business of nobody else. Privacy isn't a privilege for the few; together with freedom of speech it is the foundation of a democratic society. Many of us who aren't US citizens, find the idea of a foreign government having ready access to things we think are private, highly problematic, and I'm sure that many conscientious Americans share my concern.

Therefore we have compiled a list of alternatives to those popular services that explicitly has been called out as being willing to sacrifice the privacy of their customers:

*** Alternative search engines ***

Most of us browse the internet every day, and fortunately there exist good alternatives to search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo & AOL.

These search engines don't track or bubble you, and privacy is their selling point:




Duckduckgo has prepared a couple of interesting presentations demonstrating the problems of tracking and bubbling as it is conducted by the leading search engines. http://donttrack.us/ & http://dontbubble.us/

Startpage and ixquick is run by the same company, and they have prepared a response to the NSA surveillance scandal that you can read here: https://startpage.com/eng/prism-program-exposed.html

*** Alternatives to Google Chrome, Internet Explorer & Safari ***

Browsers: We recommend Firefox, a very good open source browser, which also has many privacy enhancing plugins.

Download it for your language and OS: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all/

*** Alternatives to Facebook, Google + ***

Diaspora is an open source alternative to Facebook and Google +, which also explicitly allows anonymous accounts.


Here is a tutorial about how to get started: http://diasporial.com/tutorials

*** Alternatives to YouTube ***:

I'm listing no direct alternative to YouTube. I believe in a TV-free life, and this also includes abstinence from streaming videos.

However, those of you who got to YouTube mainly for the music, can check out free alternatives such as http://www.jamendo.com/en/ or https://libre.fm/

*** Alternatives to Skype (VOIP and Instant Messaging) ***

Tox is a promising VOIP program that is a complete replacement for Skype. It uses peer-to-peer technology, which means that there are no central servers. It is cross platform, fully encrypted and very user friendly.


Another alternative is Jitsi, a multi-platform client that supports many different IM protocols. It is available for Windows, OS X, as well as Linux. Jitsi provides strong encryption (OTR) for text chat as well as audio calls. https://jitsi.org/ It supports IM networks such as Google Talk, NET Messenger Service, AIM, Facebook, etc, but from a privacy point of view it is highly recommended to use a free XMPP service.

(Here is a list of free XMPP providers: http://xmpp.net/ Once you have a XMPP account you're ready to connect with your friends via text chat or audio calls.)

*** Secure email ***:

Gmail, Yahoo mail and Outlook are very popular providers of free email, but from a privacy point of view, other providers should be chosen instead of these services. Email providers that have gone to great lengths when it comes to ensuring the privacy of their customers includes:

https://www.startmail.com/ & https://protonmail.com/

*** Alternatives to Windows and OS X ***

People who are concerned about privacy might want to take a look at Linux. Modern Linux distributions are typically very secure and have become user friendly. Since they're open source, we can be sure that there aren't any secret backdoors built into the system. Best of all, most Linux operative systems are totally free to install and use!

The following distributions are generally considered to be user friendly and suitable for people new to Linux:






*** Cloud storage. Alternatives to Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive ***

Spideroak is a secure file storage solution that was recommended by Edward Snowden himself. Spideroak follows the Zero Knowledge principle, which means that the content is encrypted not only in transit, but also on their servers.


*** Alternatives to Android ***

Cyanogenmod and Replicant are free and open source alternatives to Android, which can be installed on a variety of popular phones.



Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, et

Post by Gutenberg » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:38 pm

For those of you wanting additional privacy, email encryption might be a good solution... Here is an article describing how to encrypt your emails:

Encrypted e-mail: How much annoyance will you tolerate to keep the NSA away?

How to to encrypt e-mail, and why most don't bother.

In an age of smartphones and social networking, e-mail may strike many as quaint. But it remains the vehicle that millions of people use every day to send racy love letters, confidential business plans, and other communications both sender and receiver want to keep private. Following last week's revelations of a secret program that gives the National Security Agency (NSA) access to some e-mails sent over Gmail, Hotmail, and other services—and years after it emerged that the NSA had gained access to full fiber-optic taps of raw Internet traffic—you may be wondering what you can do to keep your messages under wraps.

The answer is public key encryption, and we'll show you how to use it.
Read the rest of the article here:
http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/06 ... -nsa-away/

In my opinion PGP encryption isn't as difficult as you might think to set up. There are hundreds of tutorials on the Internet about it, (including the article I just quoted) and if you use it, you'll get a very good level of privacy.

The main problem is that the majority of the people you exchange emails with, don't use encryption. If this ever is going to change, someone will have to be willing to start encrypting their emails, and encourage family, friends and colleagues to do likewise.

Our emails are often of a very private nature, and many people have no idea that the content of an unencrypted email can be read by multiple instances before it reaches its destination. In fact, an unencrypted email is more like a digital postcard than electronic "mail".

By encrypting your email you put it in a virtual envelope that ensures that only the recipient can read its contents.

Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, et

Post by Gutenberg » Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:09 pm

DuckDuckGo, one of the search engines I recommended above as a replacement of Google, has had a surge in traffic ever since the NSA scandal... Clearly people are getting more concerned about their privacy because of the NSA leak.
NSA scandal delivers record numbers of internet users to DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg, founder of search engine with zero tracking, credits Prism revelations with prompting huge rise in traffic

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/ju ... berg-prism

Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, et

Post by Gutenberg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:57 am

Earlier in this thread I recommended Lavabit as an excellent free email service that was dedicated to ensuring the privacy of their customers. Sadly they've shut down and are currently involved in a legal process due to their unwavering stance in support of privacy and free speech.
My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

I stongly recommend everyone to make a donation to on their behalf.
Donate https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?c ... R4A5W9PNN4

Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, et

Post by Gutenberg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:49 am

Mega to fill secure email gap left by Lavabit

more: http://www.zdnet.com/mega-to-fill-secur ... 000019232/
Lavabit email service abruptly shut down citing government interference

Founder of service reportedly used by Edward Snowden said he would not be complicit in 'crimes against the American people'
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2 ... rd-snowden

Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: NSA scandal: alternatives to Google, Facebook, Skype, et

Post by Gutenberg » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:29 am

BitTorrent Bleep Alpha Goes Public, Introduces Mac and Android apps

"Every message sent through Bleep is fully encrypted, end to end, and only stored locally on your device, ensuring privacy with every message. Users can also easily delete their encrypted message history, leaving no trace of conversation behind."
read more: http://blog.bittorrent.com/2014/09/17/b ... roid-apps/

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