Top Privacy Tools for 2024

Matthew Bill
10 min readJan 5, 2024

Protect your personal data from bad actors by switching to these privacy-focused tools.

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

With data breaches on the rise and more companies misusing our personal data to empower AI and other tooling, I have been trying to move my tooling over to companies that respect privacy with technologies such as Zero Knowledge and End-to-end (e2e) encryption. This is where not even the company that provides the service can get access to your data.

This is a journey I have been on for a couple of years now and I wanted to share with you my top list. Even over this time, there has been a lot of development with some tools approaching feature parity of the non-private ones we are already used to. I look forward to seeing what the future holds!

Truth be told, however, some things you are just not going to be able to move away with until they become the new norm. I have tried using privacy-focused tools for everything, but I found that this was too detrimental to my productivity. I have listed what these are at the end of the article.

One of the biggest issues of moving over to tools is getting your friends or colleagues to move away from their non-private counterparts, which are usually free, so cost considerations are key. Another serious factor for me is trust in the tools and the companies I have picked. I have listed some community resources at the end where you can go and do your research (don’t just trust mine). Looking for popular open-source options is also a good indicator of a tool's trustability.

🛠️ Tools

In order of my favorites:


I couldn’t start this list without first talking about VPNs, which encrypt your traffic and stop anyone from being able to spy on it such as your ISP or someone nefarious when using public wifi.

There are many choices out there, but NordVPN is my favourite tool of choice because it is very popular and so has a reputation to uphold. It has also been audited multiple times to ensure it does not keep logs. It has clients for most OSs, including my phone and Linux, along with an easy-to-use interface and kill switch. Whichever one you choose, I would stay away from free tools that don’t have a rock-solid reputation.

Browser (Brave Browser)

One of the easiest things you can do is switch away from a browser like Chrome and start using a private by default browser like Brave.

Brave also has the option to connect to the Tor network, as well as work with IPFS and Web3 domains like unstoppable (matthewbill.crypto).

I love how it feels to use it and that it is very geared towards Web3, IPFS, and Crypto Wallets. The reason I propose it here is that the switch from Chrome to Brave is very easy and you can use the same plugins, but you get far superior privacy from the get-go. It also happens to use Jistsi under the hood for Brave Talk (see Video Chat).

Messenger (Signal)

One surefire way to improve your privacy is to stop using SMS or other messaging platforms that are not end-to-end encrypted. Signal is a great choice for this and growing in popularity due to some high-profile influencers talking about it like Elon Musk. Out of all the tools on here, Signal is the tool I have had the most luck getting my friends to switch to. You could also potentially use WhatsApp as this is theoretically E2E as well, but this would require you to trust Facebook (Meta) on privacy — I personally don’t.

One downside to signal is you have to use your phone number to sign up and for people to send you messages. This is something that looks like it will be changing with Signal now trialing usernames.

Another thing I like to the much dismay of my friends is the disappearing messages feature. Something that also exists within Element (see Chat). I am very much pro an ephemeral internet, where our data auto cleans itself up and forgets about us.

Email (Skiff 🆕, Proton Mail — Close Second)

Skiff sits at the top for me for one main reason, its free version allows you to use your custom domain. Proton Mail comes in a close second and I still use it for my primary accounts. Skiff also links nicely with its Pages product which I also use and is something missing from Proton.

They both offer PGP encrypted email and several other privacy features where no one can read your emails, but you. I prefer the Proton interface and I find it to be more feature-rich, such as the ability to send password-protected messages to people who use non-private tools like Gmail. This has been useful for me to send things such as passport photos, which I do not want sitting there forever in someone's insecure email.

There are a lot more people using Proton at the moment as well and emails you send to people at Proton are encrypted by default without having to do anything at all. Skiff, however, allows you to set up an email as well without the need for a number or another email address, which is ideal if you want complete privacy.

Wiki/Notes/Second Brain (Skiff 🆕, Obsidian — Close Second)

The already mentioned Skiff has a product called Pages that you can use as a wiki or note-taking tool like Notion. Unlike notion (which I use for less secure stuff), it is fully e2e but suffers from a reduced feature set.

Obsidian comes in a close second and personally, it feels more like using a code editor than a note-taking tool. There is now some basic support for tables, so I no longer have to handcraft them in markdown, but it still lacks basic formatting tools.

Obsidian does work offline though, something that is not yet fully supported by Skiff, and with Obsidian you fully own your data as they exist as MD files on your local machine (although you can download them from Skiff). Both can sync and work in real-time (but you will have to pay monthly for the Obsidian version) and to use Obsidian commercially you must have a license.

The pros and cons list for both goes on, so I will stop there and perhaps do an article dedicated to the two in the future.

Drive (Mega)

Proton mail has recently released a client for Mac, but you still have to share files with people using a link, rather than sharing it with a Proton account. Hopefully, this is a feature we see in the future and could cause me to switch.

I have to put one tool on this list to shame, which is NordVault. It hardly ever worked, didn’t like large-size files, and like Skiff doesn’t work natively with the OS file system.

Out of the process of elimination, I had to go for Mega (a different tool to everything else), so:

  • I had native OS support
  • I could share folders securely with people's accounts (not magical links)

Chat Rooms (Element)

Discord is one of the tools I have found most enjoyable tool to use and has some awesome communities on it. Discord also has video and voice chat rooms you can join just by clicking on them. It is, however, not e2e and therefore not a great privacy tool.

I therefore started looking at Element, which works with the Matrix protocol and is picking up popularity. It also has video calls (also using Jitsi) and even cleans the files you send of metadata. Just like Signal it also has the option for ephemeral messages.

One of the downsides to using an open standard like Matrix is that you can’t guarantee that your data will be deleted. We have all been there when someone sent that awkward message to the wrong channel and quickly deleted it before anyone saw it. Although most people are very unlikely to set up a server or run a client that doesn’t honour these requests, it is a possibility.

I have also failed to get other people to move over to Element from Discord. One of the downsides of Element is that it is more ‘techy’ than other tools like Signal, which doesn’t help in the adoption process If I could get people to switch over to Element I probably would as I could deal with single users and groups here.

Operating System (Qubes)

Linux is an obvious choice, but Qubes goes one step further and is something I use for my test rig. It uses virtualisation to allow you to run multiple different operating systems and isolated identities, which act in different ways.

This stops things such as viruses from being able to easily communicate between these instances and gives you a lot of control over what can access what. I am a big fan of Proxmox for my Homelab and this feels like having that on a single box. It also allows you to easily switch between identities of personas (such as work and home) quickly and securely.

Video Calls (Jitsi)

Jitsi is a tool used by several other tools on this list to provide secure video calls. It is not encrypted by default and has to be turned on.

Jitsi recently stopped you from being able to use it without signing up, which I think is a real shame, but I can understand it in terms of stopping their service from being misused.

Password Manager (NordPass, BitWarden — Close Second)

NordPass is e2e, allows you to share keys with other people, and has a breach monitor to check if your passwords have been leaked. It also has biometric authentication and plugins for popular browsers.

The only reason BitWarden is not at the top of my list is that I am already using Nord products and trying to reduce the number of suppliers and tools. BitWarden is, however, open source and I am debating moving towards it so that I can raise/create new features.

In both these cases, I wish there was an option for hierarchical folders to store your passwords.

DNS (CloudFlare DNS —

Most people don’t realise, but your DNS provider knows a lot about what sites you are going to as it takes a web address (like and turns it into an address to send your browser to. For most people, this DNS will be their ISP.

Cloudflare provides a private DNS which gives you an extra layer of privacy. You can easily set up the DNS on your router to point to and anyone on your network (who has not set their DNS on their device) will get the benefit of using this service. CloudFlare also claims that it is lightning fast which is another benefit and there is even a service, which blocks our harmful and adult content which you can use for your children, etc.

Antivius (Virus Total, ClamAV)

Antivirus and privacy don’t go well together as you need to give access to all your files. You can use a tool like Virus Total to scan a single file though.

ClamAV is also an open-source tool, which is available for all major operating systems.

🏅 Honourable Mention


You won’t believe the amount of data that gets added to your files by the devices you take/create them on. This is one of the reasons I never use my real name or a gamer tag for my laptops as well. I like to pass through everything on ExifCleaner to remove the data. One day I plan to set up a script that runs it automatically against my files as I can often forget to use it.

🚫 Missing Tools

You might have noticed there are a few categories that are not covered and unfortunately this is there is still some way to go for me until privacy tools catch up in terms of productivity.

Calendar (No Winner)

I tried to use Proton Calendar for a private calendar, but after a while just had to switch back to Gmail as my friends and family tend to share calendars to arrange plans. Being in Proton I had to get friends to share a special link (very insecure) and I had to do the same, rather than being able to have logged-in accounts.

Docs (No Winner)

Before this process, I was a huge Google Docs fan and have leveraged its super fast real-time collaboration for a whole host of purposes. I have tried several different tools, but none of them compare to Google Docs in terms of features and user experience.

Libre Office (Open Office) works well enough for your classic office docs. although a bit clunky. I even tried syncing them through tools such as Syncthing and Mega, but it just doesn’t compare to the real-time collaboration available. I didn’t want to setup my own service like OnlyOffice in case I messed up the security and CryptPad used magic links again.

I have had to move back to Google Docs, just because I found the hit in productivity too much. Google Sheets are hands down one of the best applications. Easy to use, not bloated and you can use JavaScript to automate it and even use BI tooling like Looker Studio to analyse the data.

📚 Resources

Here are a few resources (not an extensive list) where you can find out more about privacy tools and privacy in general. If I had to choose one, I would say check out the Techlore YouTube channel.

YouTube Channels




Tool Lists

Places where you can keep up to date with the latest privacy focussed tools, with options for each category. As with everything in this article though — do your own research.



Matthew Bill

Technology Leader | Agile Coach | Polyglot Software Engineer | Solution Architect | DevOps Enthusiast | Speaker & Writer |