According to various sources, there are over 2 million apps available for users to download on both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. So why is it that there are just a handful of apps running most of our daily lives?
If you care about your privacy and this mass collection of data makes you feel uncomfortable then you’ll be pleased to know that you can do something about it.
We’ve looked at five of the most popular apps on the Google & Apple app marketplaces and then collated a list of different apps that you can use as privacy-saving alternatives.
These are apps that still provide the same function – yet do not collect your personal data (or practice ‘data minimalism’).
Note: Some of these apps will still collect data to some extent but we’ve tried to include a mixture of sources so that no singular company has a lot of data on your activity (i.e. Google, Facebook, etc).
Whatsapp has over 1.5 Billion users worldwide. This makes it probably the single most popular app across all the mobile platforms. If you’re naturally suspicious about WhatsApp I don’t think anyone can blame you. They’re owned by Facebook, one of the masters of collecting personal data.
WhatsApp was originally designed to be a very private app. However, since Facebook acquired the company, the reigns have started to slacken and there are now reports of more and more data being collected. If this worries you, it might be time to jump ship.
Both Signal and Telegram are great options if privacy is a concern for you. They both feature end-to-end encryption (although Telegram doesn’t use this by default – you have to enter a ‘secret chat’ with a contact). Both of these apps are pretty popular and easy to set up, requiring minimal personal information.
The suggestion here is to just go with whichever works best for you and whichever you find to be the most widely used amongst your circle of contacts. Telegram pledges on their website to always remain free and Signal is an independent non-profit company.
2. Gmail / Outlook / Yahoo Mail etc
Launched in 2004, Gmail now has over 1.5 Billion monthly active users as of 2019 and holds over 20% of the global email market share. It accounts for 27% of email opens with 61% of 18-29 year olds using it as their main email client.
It’s easy to see why this is one of the jewels in Google’s crown when it comes to collecting data.
And whilst Gmail is the most popular, Outlook and Yahoo also account for 9% and 6% respectively of global email opens. Yahoo Mail in particular has received some damning press coverage in recent years for their invasive data scanning methods.
With email, companies can fill in a lot of the gaps about you that they can’t collect from your browsing or search histories. They can see your purchase receipts, upcoming trips, email newsletters you’re subscribed to, etc.
Instead use: ProtonMail / Hushmail / Neomailbox
Options here include Hushmail and Neomailbox, but the one we’d recommend is ProtonMail. This is an email client with full end-to-end encryption. On top of that encryption, the company is based in Switzerland and as such is held to their strict privacy laws.
Whilst you do get a free account, you would likely need to upgrade to a paid account fairly quickly due to a 500mb storage limit.
3. Chrome browser
Chrome browser is where Google collects the bulk of its data. It has an overwhelming majority usage share of almost 65% averaged across all platforms (desktop, mobile, etc), with the next most used browser being Apple’s Safari browser at a mere 16%.
Obviously with Chrome, Google has the ability to collect vast amounts of information about your browsing activity, from who you bank with, to where you buy your socks.
Instead use: Cake Browser / DuckDuckGo Browser
If you would rather use something with a lot more privacy, both Cake and DuckDuckGo browsers are great options. Both of the apps work in different ways but they each place an emphasis on privacy of your personal information.
Cake is designed to help you stay secure and anonymous by providing a free VPN, in-built ad-blocking and enhanced encryption.
DuckDuckGo on the other hand helps you to quickly assess the security of websites you visit based on their ‘Privacy Grade’ feature as well as providing the same ad-blocking and encryption features as Cake. Both apps are free to download.
4. Apple Maps / Google Maps
You know the drill by now. Tech companies are collecting your data! With maps these companies can track your regularly visited locations, everywhere you’ve been in the past, etc. And, don’t be fooled – this could be happening regardless of what settings you choose. That said, Apple recently started rolling out an update of Apple Maps to include more privacy-saving features, which looks to be a positive sign for the future that hopefully other companies can follow as an example.
Instead use: Duck Duck Go Maps
DuckDuckGo Maps is a great privacy-focussed alternative to the commonly used map apps from both Google and Apple. And yes, it’s still not as good (it told me there was a Chinese restaurant in the field opposite my house) but it’s the best we have for now and if you’re worried about data collection, this is what you should be using instead.
Unlike Apple and Google maps, there is not a dedicated app – you will have to use the DuckDuckGo browser mentioned above.
5. Google Drive / Dropbox
Google Drive has been a revolutionary way of creating and managing a wide range of documents and files previously reserved for software the likes of Microsoft Office. Back in March 2017, Google Drive was estimated to have over 800 million users.
Instead use: Mega.nz / Crypt.ee / OnlyOffice
There are a few options you can use here. If you don’t make much use of the creation tools, you can easily switch over to Mega.nz. Mega are renowned for their privacy and feature end-to-end encryption on all of your files.
If you do use the creation tools, use a tool such as Crypt.ee or OnlyOffice. Both of these companies utilise end-to-end encryption to help you keep your files private. The main differences are that OnlyOffice is an app that you download (on mobile) and Crypt.ee runs using a “progressive web app” which allows you to run the tools on any device without the need for installing anything.
One thing you may find is that using apps like this will make life slightly more difficult – the main selling point of using an infrastructure like Google is convenience (i.e. one login for all services). But we’d argue that losing some convenience in exchange for increased privacy is more than worth it.
If you’re still not convinced, a good way to keep things simple is by installing an app such as LastPass, which can remember all your passwords under one account. This also improves your security by allowing you to create randomly generated passwords. This helps because you aren’t using the same login details for every account.
If you’re concerned about your mobile security then you can be assured that here at Certo we take privacy very seriously. Our products for both iOS and Android are built with privacy at the forefront. We never collect or access your personal data nor do we sell it to a third-party.