Last year, I recommended gifts that are privacy-centric, and this year is no different considering the number of companies that are after your personal data did not decrease. So, here’s a guide to help you:
1. iPhone 11
The iPhone is currently the best privacy-centric smartphone in the market today. It is true that it is pricey, but you can be assured that it is not designed to collect your data from the get go. Apple still collects data, but the data are anonymized, and in most cases, stored locally on the device. You can find other more privacy-focused smartphones in the market, but most, if not all, either does not work right out of the box (you need to install third-party operating systems), or does not have the third-party application ecosystem support. And no, Android smartphones all collect data and sends it to Google, which uses the data to generate revenue (for themselves).
You may be familiar with ad and tracker blocker plug-ins for your favorite browser (which, incidentally, should not be Chrome?—?for obvious reasons). However, that protection is specific to the device where you have it installed, and does not work on other applications. For the home network administrator, give a Firewalla, a small network device that plugs in on your home (or office) network to protect it from those trackers, and with the added feature of monitoring and blocking incoming connections from the internet to the home network. There are three models to choose from, depending on the size of the network.
This tiny computer packs a punch! For the tinkerer child, start with the 1GB RAM model, but I recommend getting at least the 2GB model (or splurge with the 4GB). Run Linux on it and bundle it with Pi-Hole.net?—?another ad and ad tracker blocker that works on your network. This is a good complement to your Firewalla. In addition, it can run free, open source software (using Nextcloud) to create a file-server for their photos (best to attach an external USB 3.0 SSD drive), videos, and documents.
For the document hoarder who is fond of using the cloud to store documents, this open source software tool will encrypt files for you before it is stored on Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, or other cloud storage services. Cryptomator will also decrypt it when accessed. This ensures that cloud providers will not be able to read any of the encrypted files, without spending time and compute resources cracking the encryption key. AFAIK, Windows, OS X and Linux versions are free, iOS application is not. Not sure if the Android one is free, too.
For everyone who should not re-use passwords, and should use passwords that are at least 15 characters long. Remember, the key to a good password is the length?—?the longer, the better (longer it takes to crack it). The rule of thumb is to use a password manager, and 1Password is the one I prefer and highly recommend. Get the Family pack?—?which is good for 5 family members.
If you are still using a free e-mail service like Gmail, remember, you are paying for it using your data (think how can they give you free service if they are not getting anything that they can monetize in return). For everyone, I recommend subscribing to Protonmail.ch (yes, they offer free accounts with very limited storage, but they get their revenue when you subscribe), which keeps email encrypted, and therefore difficult to scan.
For the free wifi junkie, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a must-have nowadays. With the proliferation of free public wifi (Smart/Google, Globe, SM, etc.), there is no better way to protect your data than using a VPN service. Not all VPN services are the same?—?in fact, Facebook’s Onavo VPN will protect you from the free public wifi provider, but not Facebook, as it sneakily scans all data that you pass through it. I recommend Windscribe VPN—it comes with an added service of blocking known ad and trackers.
A VPN needs to be configured on every device that you need to secure. For the road warrior who carries multiple devices who can use just one VPN account, you can get them either the Invizbox 2 or Invizbox Go. This small gadget tunnels all connections through a VPN, whilst acting as a portable WiFi access point for all their devices.
For the one who loves the ‘gram. Most people use social media to share it with family and friends (and don’t forget stalkers). Preserve your privacy by controlling who gets to see your photos and videos (yes, not even to Facebook, Instagram or YouTube—they use these for other purposes besides providing a platform for you to share). This little photo storage device, ibi, provides 1Tb of storage for photos and videos. It connects to the home network and securely grant access to family and friends, even those outside of home network, using the bundled application. <>
For the working parent who manages a fast home internet connection, they can host their own e-mail, calendar and storage server. This new device, Helm, provides just that. The device, coupled with an annual subscription, provides a server that encrypts and stores personal email, calendar, photos, contacts, files, locally, but with cloud-based back-up. Yes, you can have your own e-mail domain (included in the subscription), with unlimited e-mail accounts. <>
There you go. A short list of gift recommendations that you can give to your family members and friends. Remember, to keep your data private, you need to make sure that your family and friends do the same.