Need help with finding privacy and balancing my work and personal setup!

I am an apple user (I own a MacBook and an iPhone) and enjoy their OS more than anything, but I am trying to test the waters with other software (i.e., browsers and privacy setups). I think I’ve concluded that I like Safari and Firefox the best since I am easily in the safari ecosystem with apple and Firefox is not a Chromium-based browser. I thoroughly enjoy this aspect. Is there a reason to not go this route and not support the Google monopoly?

My main goal is to achieve maximum privacy due to research on reasons to move away from Google. I am looking for the best option for both work and personal browsers, but neither Safari nor Firefox seems to allow for 2 users on the web browser and I’d like to keep my bookmarks and passwords separate or at least have a way to organize them. I’m trying to figure out the following:

1. Personal and work browser setup with the best search engine for each.

  • Currently am thinking of using Safari for personal use (banking, social media, videos, etc.), Firefox for work, and Tor for private browsing and research. As for the search engine, what is my best option for Safari and Firefox? I am currently using DuckDuckGo for both, but haven’t committed. How does this fare with Qwant, Startpage, or another privacy-based search engine?

2. Decide if having two password managers for both browsers is the best option (e.i., Safari uses iCloud keychain, and Firefox uses Bitwarden due to it being end-to-end encrypted and open source.)

  • The problem that I run into with separate browsers is how to manage the passwords. I enjoy iCloud Keychain due to the fact that it can update passwords or usernames if you change them without having to manually go in and do so, which is the case with Bitwarden I believe.

3. What email service I should use for personal use, if not Google?

  • I use Gmail as my personal email and it does the trick, which is the reason that everyone uses this provider, but due to their history with privacy, I was looking for alternatives. If I have all my settings set up to minimal tracking is this enough or is it worth the hassle to move everything to another provider? I wasn’t sure if paying for something like proton or FastMail was worth it because of the fee for it being encrypted and I only use it for bills, payments, and other personal uses.

4. Do I need to use a VPN too, and why so? Wasn’t sure if paying this on top of everything was worth it. Currently using ExpressVPN.

  • I am using a credible VPN and feel like I have a good understanding of how to create a private setup, but wasn’t sure if a VPN was worth the money or not.

Overall, what are your thoughts on my situation and what would be the best fit for me?

Your browser setup seems fine to me, if that’s what you want to use.

As for the search engine, you can try Brave Search, which is based on their own index and in some rare cases falls back to Google. So far in my experience, Brave Search has given pretty good results, and is definitely worth considering.

For password manager, you can continue with your current setup if you’re okay with using it, or switch to either one of the two password managers you use already, since they’re both quite secure. There’s also 1Password, which is paid but has a 14 day free trial, that you can try out to see if its for you.

Email services like Proton and Tutanota are pretty good at maintaining privacy and security, at least on your side. Any emails you send to other users are likely going to be unencrypted (unless you do it manually of course) and likely visible to the other person’s email provider. Keep in mind that email is an inherently insecure system, and Proton and Tuta are basically band-aids holding it together as best they can. Both have free plans you can use/try before you decide whether or not to get a subscription.

The question of if you need a VPN is likely only one you can answer. A VPN simply shifts trust from your ISP to your VPN provider, so if that’s something that’s acceptable for you, or exactly what you’re looking for, then go for it! VPNs also have the use case of being able to change your IP address, whether its to access websites that may be geo-restricted (check the terms of service first!), or whether its to simply hide your IP from the services that you use. Privacy Guides have a page for this very question, as well as a list of recommended VPN services.