From NSA leaks about data surveillance to the constantly rising number of identity theft attempts, digital personal information is being assaulted on all sides. When you put information online, there is a chance that everyone from the government to search engines and advertisers will access it. Shifting privacy regulations from organizations like Facebook may not inspire much confidence either. So it is no surprise that protecting or destroying personal data is becoming a key concern of many Internet fans.
Fortunately, from Snapchat and remote wiping to apps like Silent Circle, plenty of privacy options exist for those willing to look. Here are some of the latest and greatest entrants into the private message sector, and how you can use them to protect your data from all sorts of prying eyes:
1. Snapchat and Poke
Snapchat is one of the newer and more popular photo sharing apps available for social media accounts and smartphones. It works for both iPhone and Android, and the creators have worked hard to market the app through its privacy features: Every picture sent comes with a timer. When a person accesses the picture, the timer starts to count down – when it is finished, the image is permanently deleted. This helps prevent personal photos of all kinds from being stored somewhere against your will. Facebook’s Poke is a similar, although not quite as popular, app that also focuses on “this message will self-destruct” features.
2. Remote Wiping
Remote wiping is not a single app or piece of software, but rather a method of destroying all personal data on a smartphone from a distance. This is especially useful if your phone is stolen and you want to protect personal and financial information that may be stored on it. The types of remote wiping vary according to the platform you are using. For iPhones there are iCloud abilities that allow for wiping. Android has multiple wiping apps, including Lost and Mobile Security. A final but important note: Businesses that let your use your own smartphone for work purposes often require a remote wiping feature that they control in case it appears that your phone is stolen. This means wiping may be outside of your control.
3. Privacy Guardian and CyberScrub
Privacy Guardian and CyberScrub are both privacy software options for desktop computers. They are more expensive than apps or free social features, but they also offer many more protection options if you do not want anyone sifting through your data. Privacy Guardian is the simpler of the two: It can automatically delete all Internet data, including cookies, passwords, and logs of chat conversations or emails, leaving your computer clean. CyberScrub is a much more expensive options, selling at around $60, but it offers a higher level of security in case you are feeling just a little more paranoid. It includes a risk monitor applications and promises data erasure methods that are more advanced than even government data collection techniques.
4. Silent Circle
Silent Circle is an app designed primarily for voice data. In a departure from traditional privacy apps, it helps encrypt phone calls between smartphones that are both using the software. The app also includes a number of other communication encryption options for texting, video chatting, and certain email applications including Outlook. In other words, when it comes to real-time communication options, it is hard to beat Silent Circle when it comes to full protection.
5. Secret Life
Secret Life is also a protection app designed for smartphones (anything iPhone or iPad related), but with a twist: It is primarily focused on protecting phones from personal access, making it an ideal alternative to remote wiping. To protect against unwanted access, the app hides pictures, contacts, and notes behind a fake tic-tac-toe app and then a secret password screen. This is time-consuming but also handily keeps strangers from accessing any unwanted information and makes you feel a little like a super spy.
Nextdoor is not an app but an entire social network designed for local connections in very secure space. Instead of connecting with strangers around the world, Nextdoor focuses on neighbors only, making it useful for more tight-knit communities that want to exchange information on events, babysitters, watch groups, criminal activity, lost pets, and similar issues. The network is serious about safety, so all members have to verify their address and sign in with their real name. Information is tightly controlled and never shared with Google or other search engines – especially not with any advertisers.
Wickr is a free app that acts a little like Silent Circle, but with more of a focus on text-type messages instead of voice calls. It has a lot of customization features: You can choose who can read messages, from which application messages can be accessed, and how long messages will be available for viewing before they are “shredded.” The app works with text, picture, audio, and video messages, and tries to make everything as easy to use as possible through simply tools and messaging interfaces.