Ain't Nobody Perfect

At the time of this writing, the following article has not posted to my Twitter/Mastodon feed yet, but will in a day or so: https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-browser-for-privacy/. This article from ZDNet claims to compare the “best” privacy browsers in 2022, with an honorable mention at the beginning for NoScript. Now, I already think ZDNet's “best X of [Year]” articles are either a joke or paid adverts (how many “best VPN” articles have they done and never once mentioned IVPN but mentioned Nord, Express, and Surfshark every time?), and this article is also not without imperfections: namely no mention whatsoever of Tor browser (not even an honorable mention), the inclusion of Microsoft Edge, and favoring NoScript over the much more user-friendly uBlock Origin. But I'm gonna share it anyways, and I'm gonna explain why in this quick, out-of-band blog post so that next time somebody goes “wow, really? You shared an article that lists X/doesn't list Y?” I can just send them this and stop repeating myself.

If I wanted to create a list of suggestions for a service that I think is perfect, I'd do it. Oh wait, I did. It's called TheNewOil.org. (Actually I don't believe this website is perfect, which is why it's open to suggestion and improvement, but the point is that I do strongly believe in every item listed there and will add or remove items as I become aware of their fitness or lack thereof.) I share these “best of” lists from time to time because it's a way to keep this stuff in peole's minds and make sure people remember to check their fundamentals and maybe hear about some new options or angles they weren't aware of before.

Do these lists have flaws? Sure. Do I skip them altogether sometimes for having too many flaws? Oh yeah. Frequently. But what if they're mostly good except for one or two bad suggestions? Well then I probably share them. Because privacy isn't about being perfect, it's about doing your best. I don't think it's productive to hardline and say “I can't share this article that has six good suggestions because Suggestion #7 is bad.” What kind of a world would we have if we threw out every privacy tool that wasn't 100% perfect? One without any privacy at all, that's what. Because no privacy tool is 100% perfect. We'd have no universally-acclaimed Signal protocol because Signal requires phone numbers. We'd have no XMPP because it's too buggy and user-unfriendly. We'd have no VPNs or Tor because both have drawbacks, and no strong passwords because they can – in theory – be compromised by keyloggers. We'd have no encryption at all because weak passwords render it useless. Nothing is 100% foolproof or perfect, and if we “throw out the baby with the bathwater” as my mom used to say, we'd have nothing.

It's not about being perfect, it's about raising awareness and reminding readers to stay informed and continually check their basic foundations to see if there's room for improvement. If you don't like the things I share or the lists I've made, please start your own privacy project. There is plenty of room for good, level-headed, evidence-based content that's not sensationalist or extremist. I don't claim to be the expert or end-all-be-all of privacy, handing out godlike judgements over what is or isn't acceptable. Feel free to add your own voice with your own blog or page. But that's why I'm willing to let a little not-so-great slip in with the good, because to me it's a net gain if we get people to care a little more in the process, and I'd rather people start with a less-great solution and then eventually move onto a better one once they feel comfortable than not even try because people are telling that the barrier to entry is absolute perfection from day one. And who knows, maybe these types of posts will remind them that they can do better.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

You can find more recommended services and programs at TheNewOil.org. You can also get daily privacy news updates at @thenewoil@freeradical.zone or support my work in a variety of ways here.