Eye on computer chip
Rendition of an eye on an integrated circuit. Image credit: Skorzewiak via Bigstock.

There are countless invasive apps collecting sensitive information from you via your phone. If you’re sick of that, there are more privacy-friendly alternatives. Just bear in mind that I can’t guarantee the following apps are private, I am simply using my best judgement to pick the least invasive apps.

I always recommend checking the permissions that an app requires as a starting point to see if it is violating your privacy. I may also include some common apps and how much data they collect compared to what i’m actually recommending.

Weather

Forecastie: Forecastie provides detailed weather information without too many permissions, and it has nice widgets you can put on your homescreen (and customise to blend in with it).

Messaging – Facebook Messenger Alternatives

  • Session – End-to-end encrypted by default, collects no information from you  – Loki Foundation – Australia.
  • Signal – End-to-end encrypted by default, collects your phone number, which can be used to identify you – Signal Foundation/Signal Messenger LLC – United States. This is a great Facebook Messenger alternative as it collects less personal data, and is gaining popularity.
  • Telegram – End-to-end encryption is optional, it collects your phone number, although it has many advanced features and great stickers/emoticons – Telegram FZ LLC – Headquartered in multiple countries, including Russia.
  • Keybase – This an advanced open-source (only the front end is open-source) chat and community app. It is now owned by Zoom. However, it offers end-to-end encryption – United States. This also a good Slack alternative.
  • Jitsi Meet: A video conferencing solution that can be self-hosted. This is a good Zoom alternative.

E-Mail – Gmail Alternatives

  • Self-Hosted Email.
  • ProtonMail: This is an end-to-end encrypted e-mail service that you can sign up for without a phone number or another e-mail address. You may still have to do a CAPTCHA to verify that you are not a bot, which is an understandable alternative. ProtonMail was founded by a Switzerland-based company focused on privacy and security-centric software — Proton Technologies AG. ProtonMail touts that they are governed by strict Swiss privacy laws. They offer free accounts with a limited amount of storage and features. Those accounts appear to be subsidised by revenue derived from paid users.
  • Nextcloud Mail – Can be self-hosted.
  • Tutanota: End-to-end encrypted email service with encrypted calendar. No phone number, email, or other personal information is required for signup. This is a great Gmail alternative if privacy and security are your top priorities. – Tutao GmbH – Germany.

ProtonMail and Tutanota provide ad-free interfaces with minimal distractions. Please note that e-mails sent to non-ProtonMail and non-Tutanota users can be read by the recipients’ own email provider. However, your own inbox is protected with zero-knowledge encryption.

On-Screen Keyboards

The following keyboards don’t log your keystrokes or transmit data about you or your phone online (they have no network-related permissions).

  • Simple Keyboard.
  • OpenBoard.

Calculators

Calculator++.

Note Taking And Text Editors

  • Nextcloud Notes (cloud-based, may be self-hosted).
  • Ted text editor.

Cloud Hosting – OneDrive, and Google Drive Alternatives

  • Nextcloud (depends on host) – Nextcloud GmbH – Germany.
  • Tresorit – Zero-knowledge encryption – Tresorit AG – Switzerland and Hungary.
  • Owncloud (depends on host).

Both of the providers above are actually software suites that you can self-host, or use on a third-party host.

Cloud-Based Office Tools – Google Docs Alternatives

  • CryptPad: This is web-based office suite that you can use to edit spreadsheets, documents, among other things.
  • OnlyOffice via Nextcloud (E2E encryption available for enterprise users only).  OnlyOffice is also available as a standalone app (for all major platforms) if you don’t want to host your data in a cloud. This is also a great Microsoft Office alternative if you want to edit documents or spreadsheets offline.

Social Networking

  • Mastodon.
  • Voice: This is a clean Twitter alternative that prioritises spam and fraud reduction via a 3D selfie verification system. Aside from the 3D selfie, little to no other information is required.