Privacy respecting alternative websites megareview
Unfinished. Add sources
I’m experienced, but not a professional. Don’t rely on my resources for undeniable evidence for which website is better.
I will also be mentioning services with notable political userbase. I will try to be neutral as possible, but I will be voicing my own opinions on why you shouldn’t use some services for non-political reasons.
Many websites promoting free software or privacy respecting online services often vary on their recommendations. This is usually because of the views by the site owners and the communities that contribute to each website. Some people will also recommend different software depending on the security model or due to community discourse.
This page will compile all of the big sites together. I will also write about some smaller ones too. Some websites are better for different types of people, so I will also mention other lists even if they aren’t focused on privacy completely.
What I consider a good website
Awareness of business practice
A good privacy alternative website should choose their options on not just how it functions. A good website should also look into the business model and business practices of the owners of the software/service. For example, pro-privacy products that have a record for allowing illegal activity should not be allowed to be recommended. Why? Because a service constantly being monitored by law enforcement can make you a target. While most privacy products like VPNs and Tor will have illegal activity going through their services, that is not the main purpose of these products.
Avoidance of controversy and suspicious activity
Some services should also be avoided if they get extensive and consistent negative press. Decentralised software also have different instances with different rules and policies and good foresight should be taken in listing which service to promote. For example: Gab is a social media service that while based on privacy-respecting free software called Mastodon, it should not be used because of their history of garnering the attention of law enforcement and their far to alt-right user group. Using a service that is a target for law enforcement makes you more likely to be compromised in the future. Services that the press claim to be complicit in hosting extreme content also become targets for hackers. Parler, Gab, Epik, and Gettr have had catastrophic data breaches.
Recommending the right jurisdiction and respect of the law
Avoiding the Five Eyes and promoting services based in jurisdictions that don’t require the owners to log information, backdoor services and listen to court orders of other countries is a stern requirement for me. But, the service should obey court orders in the nation that they are based in. Disobedience leads to more targeting.
Prioritisation of free software
A good website should promote a majority of free software, and note when a promoted program or service is proprietary.
Written detailed resources
Written resources and tutorials are an excellent addition. Using privacy respecting software and services does not make you private on it’s own. Guides on good security awareness and online safety is something I’d also like to see.
PrivacyGuides and PrivacyTools
Community drama between the people running PrivacyTools.io involved two sites being made with different runners. Whilst PrivacyGuides claim to be the successor to PT.io, PT.io still operates independently from them and is now a little bit different.
If you dont want to read the summaries for both, I personally recommend PrivacyGuides for newbies, and PrivacyTools if you want to see a larger library or you aren’t so strict on software requirements.
TLDR: PrivacyGuides is a fork of the PrivacyTools site with a different looking webpage and moderate to strict requirements on recommendations. It’s pretty good, and instead of just being a software list it has a couple of guides in written text under certain pages. For example: configuring Firefox and a custom User.js option.
PrivacyGuides as a whole is a good option, I won’t say it is better or worse than PrivacyTools.io as even though they are forks I can probably assume by the content they promote that they are made for different audiences. The PrivacyGuides website is designed more for normies, and anything related to cryptocurrency is not on the website either unless it is to do with being an accepted payment method. A lot of the software they recommend go under strict guidelines and a lot of the choices on here are great if you aren’t looking for something that might be controversial or not well researched.
PrivacyGuides also talks about options you shouldn’t choose in detail. Other sites will usually tell you what to avoid but not explain their reasoning why.
TLDR: PrivacyTools is the original version of PrivacyGuides running with different management. The site layout has changed a lot since the change and they now promote cryptocurrency and lessened their requirements. If you are looking for something you might not be able to find on other sites, try looking on here as well.
PrivacyTools is not as strict as PrivacyGuides therefore their library of software and services are much larger than other sites, possibly the largest of them all. Unlike some websites, they promote software that have mixed reception (Brave) and include sponsored/advertisement software in their libraries. They also have a lot of categories the former website does not have, like Cryptocurrency and file sharing websites to name a few.
If PrivacyGuides is missing a type of program you want, try looking here instead.
PRISM Break is an older website that has mostly gone out of date and is not maintained as actively as other websites anymore. A benefit to this website is they only allow Free Software with an exception to DuckDuckGo. I would not personally recommend this website much anymore.
The website does promote some choices not seen in any of the other websites like Riseup. While I don’t see any problems with Riseup, their invite-only model makes promoting it kind of useless nowadays.
Not really a website but they have a course version of their video series that is on a website. The course costs money and personally I wouldn’t look at a guide that costs money. Techlore have a great YouTube channel and I should also give props that they are fairly neutral when it comes to content that isn’t sponsored either.
The video series is pretty good for first-timers and a lot of it is a transitioning tutorial on how to reduce your online footprint and learn how to move away from proprietary services like Google. They do not mention a lot of software except operating systems and some big name programs. I thought this was worth mentioning anyway, it’s pretty good.
The Free Software Foundation recommend their GNU software or GPL ‘Free Software’ only, same for hardware which meets their certifications. I would not recommend these guides for security or privacy but they are the best resources out there if you want to run free software entirely.