All Private Everything (Else): Apps, Services, Social Networking - Technologist
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All Private Everything (Else): Apps, Services, Social Networking

You've picked up a burner SIM card, installed it in your BlackBerry, and tossed your tablet device. You're also reading this on a Linux-running computer. You've completed the first step of All Private Everything, a mental exercise meant to see how possible it would be to switch to hardware, software, and services that are untainted by PRISM and other NSA activity.

As far as we know. (Cue dark music.)

Back to the practical: Your devices are now set up, but what services and software are left? After all, Google's world domination includes your entire online life! Don't fret: here are some alternatives for everything, from web browsers to email to social networking.

Web Browser

You’re not still using Internet Explorer, are you? What about Chrome or Safari? All three are now verboten per the PRISM-free rules of the game. That leaves two alternatives: former heavyweight champ Mozilla Firefox and the eternally-present, oft-ignored Opera, which dates back to 1994, has no market share, and yet is available for everything from mobile phones to desktops to the Nintendo Wii.

Social Networking

This one is easy: Twitter, which is widely lauded for its pro-privacy measures and legal battles. Or LinkedIn. Or Reddit. The main losers here are Facebook and Google, which were both forced into PRISM participation.

Blogging

Blogger is out, though we can’t see why you’d use that outdated platform anyway. Tumblr is too, thanks to its recent acquisition by Yahoo!. That leaves my personal favorite, WordPress, as the best platform (with or without PRISM, actually).

Email

This one, on the other hand, is not so easy. Quick: name a free webmail provider not owned by one of the big companies. We’re waiting. Yeah. Thought so.

One oft-mentioned suggestion is Zoho’s offering. It’s ad-free and allows up to five separate accounts for free on your own domain (great for small firms!). There is also Lavabit, which provides a free, privacy-obsessed, minimal data retention, encrypted solution.

Cloud Storage

DropBox is my favorite. SkyDrive, from Microsoft, was equally as delightful. Both are PRISM-prohibited. That leaves the simply-named Box, a free cloud-storage veteran. The PRISM-free product has features comparable to DropBox, plus integration with a number of other online apps.

Search

You couldn’t flee the clutches of Google, et al. without considering search, could you? The answer is DuckDuckGo, which has seen massive traffic spikes in the post-PRISM days, according to The Guardian. It’s anonymous, tracking-free search, and it’s pretty good at it too, says Gizmodo.

Calendar, Online Docs and Productivity

Once again, Zoho has a lot of free solutions here, from an online office suite to calendaring. Looks like we’re going to have to do a review of their offerings in the near future (stay tuned!).

Maps and Navigation

That BlackBerry we recommended to you? It comes with BlackBerry Maps, which the folks at CrackBerry are quite fond of. We would’ve recommended Waze, as it was our favorite free alternative navigation app, but alas, Google snatched them up recently as well. MapQuest apparently has a free app, though it’s ad-laden and mediocre, per PC Magazine.

Exhausted yet? It’s hard to break away from the tech giants. They are industry leaders for a reason, namely quality. (And if they can’t beat competitors, they buy ‘em.) The truth is, it’s not really fair to blame these companies for PRISM. Their participation was forced. And truly, it’s anybody’s guess really how far the government tentacles reach, even into these companies which seem to be more independent.

Bottom Line: If you do want to make your online life as private as possible, prepare for a long weekend of trying out the alternatives.

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