How do you balance privacy and convenience?

I don’t like using Linux. This is not from lack of experience, as I have used Linux for the better part of four years. I just tend to feel more constrained on Linux than I do on Windows because of having to find software alternatives for everything. But of course, as we all know, Windows is a privacy nightmare.

And so I’m facing this choice between the two. A choice between privacy and convenience, and I’m not quite sure how to handle it or other choices like it for that matter.

Personally I only use FOSS software (mostly Linux friendly or even Linux only), but I had this issue with a friend of mine that is transitioning from Windows to Linux, and he almost got everything. Can you explain more about which tools you need and other concerns on Linux? Maybe we can find a way to balance both.

For me, privacy almost always trumps convenience. The way I see it, privacy is objective and convenience is subjective. State surveillance, corporate datamining, and regular breaches are all facts of life today. What’s convenient to you, on the other hand, is a matter of your habits, attitude, and experience. It’s well within your power to change what is convenient to you. Of course, it’s also within your power to compromise or alter your values and accept invasions of privacy. Whenever I have the patience or energy to do so, I choose privacy over an undesired compromise. That said, I still have a long way to go.

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Use what works best for you. You don’t have to use anything on the recommendation page to be secure or private. They are intended for people who face higher threats than the average person. Also, privacy isn’t just about the tools you use or download. Often, hiding in plain sight is more effective.

You can dual boot, right?

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I guess I got old. I really am not using the “killer” features and apps on Windows anymore. I really dont use any of the more advanced must have features on MS Office - all I needed to do it it, I can do in LibreOffice or OnlyOffice for free and I really dont want to pay monthly for Office 365.

I stopped gaming on the online multiplayer scene because the companies running them are a bunch of sh*ts. Ubisoft, Activision, EA… no thanks… Their corporate practices leave a lot to be desired.

I legit think Linux is better than Windows. Especially with the non-sense on desktop search and the wonky Windows Update that can nuke your entire installation because they’ve literally laid off all beta testing people…

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Linux is definitely not the only valid option for privacy! We’re currently working on a Windows overview and configuration page, and have a macOS page planned. Your privacy goals can most likely be achieved on windows, albeit with a lot more configuration and a price tag (you can only fully disable telemetry on the Enterprise edition). Hopefully we’ll be able to get that page up soon.

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This comes down to threat model and values. I use private software for ethical reasons. I see the damage that harmful business models like surveillance capitalism do to society and can’t stand the cognitive dissonance associated with using products and services from big tech. I don’t, however, feel any immediate threat / that my data will be used against me personally anytime soon, so if I really hated something on privacy guides and found it unusable, I probably wouldn’t use it.

Not everyone is privileged to have this choice. Your threat model may require you to use Linux. I happen to prefer open source privacy protecting software for other reasons, so to be honest, this isn’t an issue I’ve encountered.

Compartmentalization may also help here- use Windows for certain tasks that require it and dual boot or have a separate machine with a privacy-friendly OS.

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Also worth pointing out that most of the recommendations we make on the website are actually multi platform anyway.

A Windows page is defintely in the works, and we will be providing some guidance on how to fine tune that, along with macOS/iOS pages.

Yes, I relate to all of this. I’ve had to make some serious compromises - e.g. not running Linux - because most of the software and hardware I need to use for media production simply is not compatible. I don’t mind tinkering as a hobby, but for important stuff I can’t afford the time or reliability issues to fuss with compatibility layers etc.

It’s important to remember that privacy isn’t my only priority in life - I also care about reliability, environmental impact, digital minimalism, well-being, etc. We’re always juggling multiple priorities. Like - yes, going to the doctor is a loss of privacy, but it’s an acceptable loss of privacy because it improves my health and well-being.

I always strive to keep things in perspective, comparing my level of privacy to where I was before I began this journey instead of the theoretical maximum privacy I could achieve. The reality is that just by taking many of the moderate steps recommended on PG you’re already in the 99th percentile of privacy hygiene. That’s a great thing.

So it’s forever a process - try something, see that it goes too far for you, try something else, see that it doesn’t go far enough, learn, move on. The goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be better than before.

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It’s also a bit of a misconception that you need linux to have privacy, mostly spread by the “if its not open source its spyware” folk.

Which is why we want to have both an iOS/MacOS section, and a Windows section. More things are web based now so it really matters a whole lot less what OS you run anyway. We also don’t consider basic OS telemetry to be intrusive, this is often anonymized data used to improve products. What we like to see is options to disable such things however.

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Multi-device setups

Twin-Phones: only morless degoogled, and another exactily the same model etc, but strong privacy setup, no Calyx,Graphene as both requires pixel phones, that put a red-flag on your hands.

PC/Tv/Etc: MacOS or Android with the highest privacy setuo not interfering with services/bank etc, another linuc/macOS pc allways air-gapped to run sensitive process/ R&D/ whatever secret or exposure sensitive as bitcoin private keys etc.

That’s all despite being un-practical being too-radical about privacy, it doesnt measn you can not have besto of two worlds.

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This is very important, I was looking for this answer in the comments. My privacy journey has gone from not caring at all using Chrome browser, Gmail, Facebook and all other “normal” apps; to trying to achieve complete anonymity in fear of being tracked by big tech, and then to where I am today trying to find a reasonable balance between privacy and convenience.

After reviewing my threat model I realized being anonymous isn’t necessary for me and requires a too great sacrifice of convenience. I mainly want to minimize tracking and avoid surveillance capitalism as well as passive attacks.

I recently got a Pixel phone and installed GrapheneOS on it, since I needed a new phone anyway I saw no reason not to go with GOS. It gives me more control with very little trade off. I still use Google play (sandboxed) for some apps. I gave up Facebook since I don’t use it anyway. My PC runs windows 11 with a Microsoft account and minimized all telemetry as much as possible.

For me that’s good enough. I could do less and probably not loose much privacy, but I’m very interested in the subject and therefor enjoy tinkering with it. We can’t get rid of all tracking without sacrificing a lot of convenience. Some people need to stay anonymous for safety reasons. But I see no reason to do more than necessary, it almost made me paranoid for a while when constantly trying to get away from big tech.

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What use cases though ?
Might be helpful to consider for Windows guide I am working on.

Mainly for office since I use word and excel and haven’t found any of the foss alternatives satisfying. But also to easily back up settings and folders on my computer.

I’m aware it’s not the most privacy friendly solution, but at the moment (and for my usage) I’m willing to sacrifice some privacy for the convenience. I have set all telemetry to the absolute minimum in both windows and my Microsoft account. I also use my PC rather sparsely and mainly for gaming, so the info Microsoft can collect is limited. My phone is my main device where I now have GrapheneOS and am more careful with my app/browsing habits.

Did you try OnlyOffice which is similar to MS office in terms of UI ?

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