A few years ago, privacy applications were few and far between; however, in the present day, there are countless apps available for download. This has led to some confusion about which apps really work.
While I hope this article gives you insight into the topic, no article can substitute actually reviewing and testing a product yourself when it comes to using technology.
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What Is A Privacy App?
You would think this would be a simple answer, but it’s actually not. The term privacy app has different meaning to different people, and they do many different things.
First off there is data privacy. This refers to your ability to control who can access your data (or information) that is stored on your device (phone, tablet, computer, etc.). Perhaps you have some special contacts that you don’t want stored among your normal contact list, or certain photos that you don’t want to have sitting in your phone’s photo gallery. In this case, you would be looking for an app that could block others from seeing this information, or “hide it”.
Alternatively, you may be interested in having a private conversation with someone online, and you don’t want anyone but the two of you to know what was discussed. In this case, you might be looking for cryptographic messaging or video conferencing.
Or, maybe you want to be able to surf the internet without anyone being able to see your search history. In this case, you may be looking for a browser with “ghosting” abilities.
These are just some of the common forms of privacy apps that people seek every day. As such, trying to determine the best app is tough.
So How Do I Find A Reliable Privacy App?
Truthfully, this will not be simple or easy. Apps are being released every day, and with them, come many competitors that hack those releases and look for ways to exploit any security vulnerability. Some of that is productive because it exposes a weakness, and an opportunity to fix it.
In my experience I have found that for information protection or privacy, on my Android phone, the “Secure Folder,” which is part of my Samsung Galaxy Note 9 operating system, is among the best apps for this. It is built into the phone, requires a password to be accessed, and we’ve tried to look at and recover things from it forensically and have found that they are well-hidden. The big limitation here is that you cannot create additional folders or categorize within the Secure Folder.
For transfer of sensitive documents or sensitive text communications, I tend to lean towards WICKR (primarily) or Whatsapp because of their transparency and timed destruction options. They include a level of encryption, and in the case of WICKR, they are very open about providing warranty in the event of a data breach. It is important to note that in order to conduct video conferencing through WICKR, you must have WICKR PRO, and this can require a subscription by all parties using the app.
Making Smart Decisions About Privacy Apps
Apply common sense rules first.
1. When looking for and downloading a new app or a privacy app of any kind, check the number of other users using it and the rating given by those users. If it is barely used or has poor ratings, save yourself a headache and don’t download it.
2. Once you’ve downloaded it, how much of your personal identifiable information does it want in exchange for letting you use it? If you have to give out a bunch of your own information, it’s probably not worth it in the end. If it wants detailed personal information, then uninstall it and avoid the headaches it might bring you.
3. When you’re using the app, check all of the settings and learn exactly what options exist to protect you. If you don’t have the control you want, get rid of it.
4. No matter how much you read or is promised to you in terms of privacy, there is no substitute for caution. Even when communicating on a high encryption app, it is never completely impossible that the communication will be revealed. A great example is the Snapchat app, which is supposed to delete a post after it has been read. 99% of the time this is true; however, there was one communication that took place between myself and a friend that remained visible to one of us for over 8 months. We tried everything, including contacting support, deleting the app and reinstalling it, etc. and the message remained until one day it just disappeared. No explanation.