The New Oil

Data privacy & cybesecurity for normal people
TheNewOil.org

If you haven’t read last week’s post, I highly recommend it to get up to speed. A quick recap for those who may have forgotten: The Privacy Dad shared a blog post about why his friend ended up abandoning Tutanota, citing a number of issues and difficulties he ran into. Last week, I examined TPD’s Friend’s criticisms, focusing specifically on the ones that I felt were areas that end users should improve on themselves – such as the need to be more flexible and forgiving as well as becoming a little more tech-literate when it comes to reading support documentation. (Before anyone starts telling me how I’m gatekeeping or blaming the users, please read the blog post in full.) However, that doesn’t mean that the developers are without room for improvement here. There are a lot of things that developers (and other members of the privacy community – myself included) could be doing to reduce the friction of onboarding and retaining “normies” with privacy tools. So this week, as promised, let’s focus on those.

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Many of you may have come across this blog post from The Privacy Dad, which serves as a follow up to a previous post titled “Privacy Tools Are Not Worth the Hassle.” A few years back, I had my “aha moment” in regards to privacy. Ever since, I’ve delved deeply into privacy, always cautious not to negatively impacting my life my too much, a topic I’ve written about many times.As such, I was very interested to hear directly from a user why they didn’t stick with Tutanota and what obstacles they had.

As I read through TPD’s Friend’s feedback, I had a lot of thoughts I wanted to share, both for end users and developers. This post ended up being much longer than I expected, so I’ve decided to split this up into two parts. This week, let’s dissect TPD’s friend’s criticisms that ultimately led them to decide that privacy tech was no longer worth it and see where we can improve on the end user’s side of the equation. I’ll put the developers on blast next time.

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Disclosure: I have an affiliate link with Proton VPN that gives me a small financial payout if you sign up for a paid plan using it. You do not have to use this link; I provide a non-affiliate link at the end, and I tried my best to be unbiased in this review.

What is Proton VPN?

VPNs – short for Virtual Private Networks – are all the rage these days for various reasons, such as bypassing geographic restrictions to access foreign content. Unfortunately, VPN providers make misleading claims about what a VPN can and can’t do for their users. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the provider's server, safeguarding all your traffic from prying eyes, including your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or whoever owns the router (e.g., a public Wi-Fi network). After reaching the provider's server, your traffic continues on to your desired destination like normal. Proton is a particularly popular service provider in the privacy community.

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Password managers are thankfully becoming a mainstream topic. In addition to seeing commercials for certain ones from time to time, it’s becoming more common for me to attempt to spread the word about good passwords only to be met with something like “oh I already use Dashlane/1Password/etc.” While it’s good for consumers that there are more options available, that also means it can be difficult for people to know what’s best since many companies are prone to exaggeration or poor practices (as we saw in the somehow still-ongoing LastPass data breach). So this week, I'd like to examine the three recommended passwords on the website and explain what I believe to be their use-cases, strengths, and weaknesses to help readers decide on the best password manager for them.

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What is Threema & Why Do You Need It?

Threema is an end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) messenger available on Android, and iOS. Linux, Mac, Windows, and web clients also exist, but you’ll have to create an account on mobile first before connecting them (similar to Signal). I have long advocated for the need for E2EE in your daily communications for both practical and philosophical reasons. Practically, it can protect sensitive communications like financial discussions, upcoming plans, and NSFW content (if that's something you choose to engage in with another consenting adult). Philosophically, I believe that everyone should use encryption whenever possible to normalize it and make mass surveillance less feasible/practical/economical.

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About nine months ago, Henry and I made a comment on Surveillance Report 106 about how there's not enough privacy content out there aimed at parents. Neither of us are parents – and I can't speak for Henry but personally I've decided not to have kids – so while we may possess the “technically correct” answers to the problems parents face, we both know that the reality is much more complicated and nuanced: kids are people, too, and while they may still need the guidance and protection of their parents, there is no one-size fits all solution for every child, let alone every age. Children mature differently, have different personalities, and come from different backgrounds. When we talked about this on air oh so long ago, Henry quipped that a great name for such a project would be “The Privacy Dad” or “The Privacy Mom.” We never expected anyone to actually take up the mantle. I should really stop expecting to stop being taken seriously these days.

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Disclosure: I have an affiliate link with SimpleLogin that gives me credit towards my own SL account. You do not have to use this link, I provide a non-affiliate link at the end, and I tried my best to be unbiased in this review.

In this review, I’ve decided to lump both AnonAddy and SimpleLogin into the same review because they’re so incredibly similar in their offerings and features, though I will note any differences between them. I don’t think of this blog as “AnonAddy vs SimpleLogin,” though I’m sure it will help anyone who’s on the fence decide between the two. Rather, I present this as simply two tools you can use to achieve the same protection. I keep referring to AnonAddy first because I’m listing them in alphabetical order.

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Did you know that drinking too much water can kill you? (You'd have to really chug a lot of it do so, so don't really worry about it, but technically it's a thing.) Same thing with too much oxygen. You probably already knew that, but did you know too much Tuna (or any seafood, really) can give you mercury poisoning? Or that too much of certain teas can cause kidney failure? That swallowing too much toothpaste can cause flouride poisoning? (Source for all these claims.) Most of us are familiar with the idiom “too much of a good thing can be bad,” and most – if not all – of us have probably experienced this at least one time when we ate or drank to the point of feeling sick (even if you don't touch alcohol) or slept in way too much and felt groggy the rest of the day. Our bodies and minds are primed for balance. Introverts, for example may need the balance of staying at home with Netflix or a good book the night after going out to a friend's birthday party.

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Amazon’s now-legendary “Prime Day” is July 11-12. Boy that sneaks up on you fast when you avoid them and don't have ads in your life. Much like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, this means sales on lots of items on Amazon’s vast marketplace, and as such many people flock to the giant’s website to get sweet deals on everything from computers to small kitchen appliances and more. But this year – as with all years, hence why this repost – I urge you to resist the allure. Far be it from me to compel you by force what you to spend your money on or where, but in this week’s post I hope to lay out a convincing case for everyone for why Amazon is full-stop evil, no caveats, and is undeserving of your money on a moral and ethical level. Amazon needs to be stopped, and legislation will not do so. Only its loyal consumers – who keep the beast alive – can do that by taking their money elsewhere. No matter your political or ethical beliefs, I'm certain Amazon violates them in one way or another, and you should vote with your dollar by buying from other places whenever possible.

Here are five reasons that you should stop supporting Amazon with your money and purchases.

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A few months ago, as my wife and I sat in the study doing out separate things, she suddenly asked if I noticed a certain smell in the room. Truthfully I had – a “chemically” smell is the only way I know how to describe it – but I have a notoriously bad sense of smell that sometimes plays tricks on me so as the scent came and went I simply assumed it was just another thing that was all in my head. However, once she spoke up I realized that I had been getting slightly light-headed, so we popped open a window, set up a fan, and moved to the living room to give the study time to air out. Afterward – the smell still very present but at least mixed with some fresh air – we went to hunt down the source of the issue. It ultimately ended up being a power strip that was going bad (did you guys know those things only have a shelf-life of a couple years? Be sure to replace your power strips periodically). Perhaps as a part of this problem or perhaps totally unrelated, it turned out that the power supply for my Jellyfin server had died (we initially incorrectly diagnosed this as the source of the problem). Never one to let an opportunity go to waste, I thought this might make a good blog post to share.

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