It sometimes seems as if every major web service has ridiculous privacy-violating conditions attached. What can you do if you care deeply about privacy but don't want to leave the internet altogether? Here are some good alternatives to the privacy-sapping big guys.
Many services (Google and Facebook for example) are relatively transparent in their privacy policies when you sign up (presuming you actually read it). Their data collection is often for internal purposes rather than anything obviously nefarious, but they still collect a lot of data.
This week, Facebook is giving users a chance to vote on your ability to vote on future site changes (including privacy changes). We don't know what the outcome of that vote will be, but either way, it serves as a reminder: you get free services because you provide free information about yourself, and that doesn't sit comfortably with everyone. (That's also the reason fake privacy notices get so much traction.)
We can't provide privacy-centric alternatives to every service out there, but here are a few potential replacements for popular services.
Piecemeal Service Or Glassboard Instead Of Facebook
We've previously talked about building your own piecemeal social networking service using different networks, and that's one of the best replacements for Facebook. Instead of handing over all your private data to one service, you can piece various elements; perhaps Flickr for pictures and your own blog so you can easily control which content is shared.
Other alternatives: Turn your email into a private social network.
DuckDuckGo Instead Of Google Search
DuckDuckGo doesn't have the advanced search options that Google has, and since it doesn't track your browsing history the results aren't nearly as tuned to you as Google's. However, if you're worried about the amount of data collected on your browsing habits, it's a better options than Google.
Lavabit Instead If Gmail
Gmail is great from a security point of view, but the fact Google scans your email to serve you targeted ads is a little worrisome for some. You can opt out pretty easily, but if you're bothered about how Google is collecting the data it might be best to step away from it entirely.
App.net Instead Of Twitter
Other alternatives: Identica.
SpiderOak Instead Of Dropbox
TuneIn Radio Instead Of Pandora
Other alternatives: None (most streaming services track you for advertising).
Jitsi Instead Of Skype
As an alternative, we like the open source software Jitsi. Jitsi has encryption on both ends of the conversation, messages aren't saved online, and it uses the more private Session Initial Protocol so your data doesn't go anywhere. Essentially, everything you do with Jitsi is encrypted, and since nothing is stored online you don't need to worry about that data falling into the wrong hands.
Other alternatives: VSee
If you're mostly upset about how your data is sent to advertisers, we like the Collusion and PrivacyScore extensions because they show you exactly where your browsing data is going. You can also snag the Disconnect extensions to stop Facebook, Google and Twitter from tracking you. To opt out of the other advertising that tracks you and invades your privacy, the Network Advertising Initiative has a opt-out page that shows who's tracking you in your browser and allows you to disable it.