The best apps & extensions that protect your privacy in Safari

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(A few months back ExpressVNP wrote a blog post on the top 3 browser extensions for protecting your privacy. While we got great feedback on that post, we realized that we neglected a key demographic: loyal Safari users. Sorry, guys! This post is for you.)

You’re being followed. And not just by your followers on Twitter and Instagram. Pop-up ads and third-party scripts are tracking what you do online. Even worse, these ads and scripts can compromise your cybersecurity and slow down your browsing speeds.

Want to protect your Internet privacy and security while you surf on Safari? Arm yourself with these apps today.

Apple’s New Arsenal of Content Blockers

When Apple released iOS 9, they included an overlooked-but-amazing new feature that enables content-blocking extensions.

But these aren’t your traditional ad blockers. Apple’s content blockers do much more than block ads. They also block cookies, pop-ups, autoplay videos, scripts, and any other potentially privacy-invading (and annoying) content.

While our blog post about the best Chrome extensions for protecting your privacy broke the apps down into different categories, Safari’s content blockers combine various features to work as anti-tracking and site-securing extensions, as well as traditional ad blockers.

Here are our picks for the best free Privacy Apps for iOS and Mac.

Jump to…

Top Content-Blocking Apps for Safari on iOS
Top Content-Blocking Extensions for Safari on Mac

Top Content-Blocking Apps for Safari on iOS

Check out our favorite content blockers for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod!

Our Top iOS Pick: 1Blocker

What’s better than an ad blocker that blocks almost every ad or third-party script? An ad blocker that actually improves your battery life. This is exactly what 1Blocker does.

While UBlock Origin was our #1 pick for best ad blocker for Chrome, it’s not available for Safari. Fortunately, the developers of 1Blocker may have created something even better than UBlock Origin.

With more than 8,000 pre-installed blockers, 1Blocker targets ads and scripts to maximum effect—*** it possible for sites to load faster and downloads to upload easier. In fact, 1Blocker’s developers claim the app can decrease load times and data downloadsby over 50 percent!

1blocker in action

1Blocker is easy to use and offers loads of great customizable features. You can block cookies and whitelist (un-ad-block) specific sites. You can even hide certain page elements and block custom fonts to help improve browsing speeds.

1blocker's customization options

We’re not afraid to declare this app is the only ad blocker you’ll ever need on your iPhone.

(Note: 1Blocker is available for free, but your customizable choices are limited. To unlock the rest of the custom options, you can buy the pro version for $2.99 USD. We know, we know: this list is supposed to be about FREE apps. But 1Blocker is so good we had to name it as our top pick.)

Runner-up: Refine

If you’re not satisfied with 1Blocker’s free version and don’t feel like forking out the cash for the full suite, Refine is the perfect alternative.

Formerly known as Safari Blocker, Refine is 100-percent free and comes with two built-in blockers: Classic Privacy and Classic Adblocking. As the names suggest, Classic Privacy helps protect your personal info, while Classic Adblocking blocks unwanted pop-ups and scripts.

screenshot of interface for refine app

Classic Privacy is switched off by default, but you can toggle it to allow both blockers to work simultaneously.

screenshot of refine app options

Like 1Blocker, Refine also lets you whitelist specific sites and has a number of customizable options. And while you’ll see faster load times with Refine installed, 1Blocker is still the best for improving your Internet browsing speeds

How to Enable Content Blockers for Safari on iOS

Please remember that in order to use content blockers on iOS, you first have to enable them.

Once you’ve downloaded a content blocker from the App Store, go to your device’s Settings menu. Under Safari, tap on Content Blockers, and toggle the switch to allow the app (or apps) you’ve installed.

picture of children in cardboard box on  make ­believe safari Look out! Apple’s new ad blockers are also available on your Mac!

Top Content-Blocking Extensions for Safari on Mac

Mac’s Safari 9.0 is also beginning to see its fair share ofad-blocking extensions. Like the iOS apps, these work by blocking both pop-ups and scripts. They also help improve load times. Here are our top picks for Safari content-blockers for Mac.

Our Top Mac Pick: Adamant

Adamant helps protect your privacy by blocking banner ads, popovers, tracking scripts, and other pesky web elements that follow you around online. It also helps boost load times.

Below we’ve posted screenshots of a webpage in Safari 1) with Adamant disabled and b) with Adamant enabled.

Look At This Webpage with Adamant Disabled

Notice the ads on the side of the screen, and the “Around the Web” ad links, the “From Our Partners” links, and the enormous banner above the footer.

screenshot of webpage viewed with no adblockers on

Look At This Webpage with Adamant Enabled

Now look at the same webpage in Safari when Adamant is active. See the difference? All the ads are gone, there are far fewer distractions, and the page is significantly shorter and more pleasant to look at.

screenshot of webpage viewed with adamant content-blocking extension enabled
The only thing Adamant is lacking is in the way of customizable features. There’s no option to whitelist sites or alter your settings. But in a way that could actually be a selling point, as Adamant is the perfect plug-and-play ad blocker.

Because this extension hits all our sweet spots—it’s easy to use, and it protects your browser from unwanted ads and invisible scripts—it earns our coveted Top Pick.

While Adamant is free on Mac, Adamant for iOS is available for $1.99 USD.

Runner-Up: Wipr

The little-known gem Wipr works by blocking both ads and trackers.

Like Adamant, Wipr updates automatically, so you’ll never need to worry about using the latest version.

While it’s a powerful ad blocker in its own right, testing demonstrates that Adamant is slightly more efficient.

Wipr is available on both OS X and iOS. While the Mac version is free, Wipr for iOS is available for $0.99 USD.

How to Enable Content Blockers for Safari on Mac OS

After you’ve installed the content-blocking extensions, you can toggle them on and off in the Safari Preferences menu. To access this, click on Safari in the file menu, then click Preferences

screenshot for accessing safari's preferences

Under the Extensions tab, you will see all the extensions you have installed in Safari. Check or uncheck the box to enable your content blockers.

screenshot of safari extensions in preferences panel

There you have it. Arm yourself with these free content blockers and take back your Internet privacy in Safari today!

 

Featured image:  Alejandro Escamilla / UnsplashSafari image: Luis Louro / Dollar Photo Club

 

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12 classic toys that subtly prepared us for a lifetime of digital paranoia

ExpressVNPdigital-paranoia

Remember Furbies? Those cute little toy gremlins that learn English by talking and listening to you? By the end of the 1990’s, Furbies were everywhere, even at the NSA and the Pentagon where they were quickly banned after authorities feared they might overhear sensitive conversations and repeat them to the wrong ears.

But here’s a fun fact: Furbies “learn” English words in a preprogrammed series, not by listening. A Furby doesn’t actually contain any recording equipment at all! But that didn’t stop the US government from erring on the side of caution. Because, you know, loose Furbies sink ships.

What other popular toys induce the kind of surveillance paranoia we normally associate with the NSA? There are more than you’d think! From decoder rings to Hello Barbie, here’s an infographic with 12 toys that make cryptography, espionage, and mass surveillance fun for the whole family!

12 Classic Toys That Subtly Prepared Us For a Lifetime of Digital Paranoia

Remember other creepy toys? Let us know in the comments!

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New law for make benefit not so glorious Kazakhstan government

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All Kazakhstani citizens will soon be owners of a new certificate. It’s not one to proudly show off to your wives, though.

The Kazakh government has passed a new law that requires a digital certificate to be installed on the phones and PCs of every citizen. It will harvest web traffic, passwords, calls to your goat farmer, and even financial details. Indeed, the certificate will pretty much capture anything the government wishes.

This is just another instance of a government trying to force its way into your life. It’s a blatant information grab, and they didn’t even try to disguise it. At least, not very well. The news came to light when Telecom.kz posted the surveillance plan in a November press release. It was hastily withdrawn, but when will people learn that Google saves everything…

It’s not the first time a government has attempted to shoehorn their way into our digital lives. And it certainly won’t be the last. But at least now we know they are doing it, and we can protect our privacy. It’s almost funny to watch them blunder around, failing.

 

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How to Stop Governments From Spying On You

If you’re worried about any government spying on you, there’s a *** way to beat them. ExpressVNP works by hiding your location from snooping eyes. They can insist you install all the certificates in Kazakhstan, but they can’t do anything when your connection originates from a country beyond their jurisdiction.

Fortunately, the world is large. And ExpressVNP has it covered, with server locations in 94 countries. You can connect to any one of them for private browsing. Even the one in Kazakhstan. (Yes, we do have one there. Because we’re awesome).

✋ High five. ✋

Get your private Internet connection from ExpressVNP. And maybe save yourself some money, the next time you wish to hire a car. Or a donkey dragging a car. It’s your Internet. Do what you like!

 

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Featured image: siempreverde22 / Dollar Photo Club

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Introducing the ultimate guide to VPN for Canada

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ExpressVNP is proud to announce our newest and most comprehensive guide to VPN for Canada!

We took survey responses from real Canadian VPN users and incorporated them into an all-encompassing guide to using a VPN in Canada. And outside of Canada. And around Canada. It’s for Canadians, by Canadians.

We asked Canadians: Has privacy become more important to you in the last several years? If so, why?

It covers all the ways in which real Canadians are already using virtual private networking: unblocking geo-restricted TV and movies, protecting their personal data,  streaming CBC, you name it.

Whether you’re looking to encrypt your Internet connection, avoid ISP throttling, or looking to protect yourself from invasive legislation like Bill C-51, check out this guide and share it with your friends.

And if you’ve got more tips and tricks for Canadian VPN users like you, let us know in the comments and we’ll update the guide!

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Nothing to hide? Speak for yourself.

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“Don’t worry; you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.”

Ah, the well used mantra of a Nazi or a movie villain (or both). At least, it used to be.
Snowden has given us tangible proof that digital cavity searches are happening constantly. Everywhere. The “nothing to hide” refrain lives on. Except now the people using it are average citizens, weary of media outrage and armed only with the desire to plod along without a fuss. “Who cares if the NSA reads our e-mails, anyway? I have nothing to fear because I have nothing to hide.”

Well, you should care. And here’s why.

“Ignorance Is Bliss” Means Nothing

When I lived in New Delhi, I often wondered if constant fretting about air quality was doing more damage to my mental health than the invisible pollution particles were doing to my lungs, and perhaps I’d live longer if I ignored them altogether. Maybe if I did the same to the invisible eyes and ears of the U.S. government, I’d sleep better, be more productive, have more fun.

This is what I call the “ignorance is bliss” argument. The world is a barbeque, America is a big juicy hot dog, and Edward Snowden is your neighbor’s annoying son running over to tell you it’s actually made of pig snouts. Shut up, Edward! This hot dog is made of freedom and nobody likes you anyway.

It Sucks But It’s Worth It

A slightly less ignorant point to make would be that pig snouts, disgusting as they may be, are what make our hot dogs so delicious and we should all be thankful for it. This is what I call the “it sucks but it’s worth it” argument. No one likes to be spied on, but as NSA director Keith Alexander was quick to point out in the wake of the Snowden revelations, surreptitiously collecting phone metadata and other communications has stopped no fewer than 54 terrorist plots around the world. Never mind for a moment that this statistic has completely fallen apart under scrutiny. Even if spying programs like PRISM and xKeyScore saved only one human life, surely that’s more important than a bunch of nerds on the Internet whining about right to privacy. Right?

Sacrificing privacy for convenience isn’t just a First World Problem: projects like Google’s Loon and Facebook’s Internet.org are already aiming to bring free Internet access to the least-developed corners of the globe. These big companies can afford to launch balloons and fly solar-powered planes all over Africa and India because more data means more money. And getting a few more billion people to sign up for Google and Facebook accounts means lots and lots of data, and lots and lots of money.

But if you’re a poor Sri Lankan farmer whose child just won a university scholarship to college thanks to free online education, you probably don’t care whether or not your browsing history is being sold to advertisers or handed over to the government. After all, you have nothing to hide.

Come and look at our puppies. Come look at our kittens. We have free candy…

“You Can Trust the NSA”

Other people with “nothing to hide” must find my portents of the death of privacy extreme and apocalyptic. Surely the definition of “something to hide” depends on who you’re hiding it from. When I send a sneaky text at a coworker’s tap dance recital confiding to a friend I think said recital is an egregious waste of time, of course I would like to keep that text private from said coworker. But do I care that some intern in a government bunker in Utah has read the text? Not as much, because I trust that person has little interest in tattling on me. I call this the “just trust us” argument.

Life is full of trusted authorities who breach our beloved privacy. The teller at my bank could ruin me financially. My doctor could tell my friends what my genitals look like. A TSA agent, if he or she so desired, could publish on the Internet a comprehensive list of items found in my suitcase pre- and post- Vegas bachelor party weekend. I don’t lose sleep over these things because I have faith in the layers upon layers of confidentiality agreements and hiring practices that ensure these authorities are trustworthy enough to hold their jobs in the first place. Why should NSA employees be any different?

Privacy Is a Two-Way Street

And why should government employees be held to a different standard of privacy than the rest of us? That was the question Twitter was forced to answer in August 2015 when it shut down Politwoops, the popular website that automatically republished any tweet that a politician attempted to delete, an algorithmic application of the Streisand effect. Though journalists bemoaned the sudden loss of a powerful tool for transparency in government, in its own defense Twitter appealed to a universal standard of privacy…

“Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice.”

I call this the “two-way street” argument: that both people and governments have the right to secrecy. If we care about the right to privacy so much then why should we complain when the government censors itself?

Utopia Is Glass House and a Film Crew

Or conversely, if we don’t want the government to hide things from us, then shouldn’t we start by setting a good example? The poster child for that argument would have been Noah Dyer, self-professed anti-privacy activist. In his Kickstarter campaign Noah asked the world to help him fund a camera crew to turn his life into The Truman Show, during which he would have every minute detail of his life filmed and broadcast to the Internet to prove that life isn’t just livable under constant surveillance, it’s better. It’s an extreme viewpoint but Noah does seem sincere in his proposal video, where he rails against the hypocrisy of privacy advocates:

“The same logic that allows you to burp, fart, pig out, have an affair or anything like that in the privacy of your own home allows your government representatives to have secret meetings where they can buy and sell votes and political favors.”

Dyer’s accusation is radical but strangely compelling. Imagine an overweight child at the local pool, keeping his shirt on out of shame. Do we not rejoice when he finally learns to conquer that shame and cannonball into the water sans shirt? Shouldn’t we all live like that? Steve Jobs hinted at this ideal in his graduation speech to the Stanford Class of 2005: “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Maybe the nudists were right all along. Ergo, last one to strip loses!

Watch US Netflix with ExpressVNP I wish I was watching US Netflix.

Your life. Your Rules. Your Right to Be Ignored.

Wait! No! No, no no no! Everyone keep your clothes on. Or don’t! Whatever you want; that’s the point.

Just because one person is brave enough to be naked on camera (literally or figuratively), doesn’t mean we all should. But that’s what Noah’s project would have needed. Not just his own shamelessness, but the shamelessness of everyone around him. If his “Year Without Privacy” had succeeded, how many of Noah’s family members would have wanted to share something meaningful with him that year? How many social gatherings would he have been invited to? How many dates would he have had? The tumbleweeds rolling through his tragically underfunded Kickstarter campaign suggest Noah’s year would have been a lonely one.

While I don’t deny transparency in government would benefit greatly if everyone had their own 24/7 TV channel broadcast to the world, something tells me the “corrupt government meeting” channel wouldn’t get as much attention as the “normal people in their bedrooms” channel. In fact, I think the constant distraction would make it even easier for politicians to get away with lying and bribing their way to power, because they could do it in plain sight. So long as they did it with their clothes on, they’d always be less interesting than whatever the neighbors are doing.

A utopian anti-privacy super-society like the one Noah described may well be the future of the human race, but if it is then let’s get there gradually, when we all opt in, and no sooner. In the meantime, if you’re the type of person who does enjoy putting your life on display then go nuts; there’s already an app for that.

Nothing to Hide? Your Future Bets Otherwise.

Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

That’s part of the U.S. Miranda rights, and applies to everything you say after you get arrested. As this video explains quite thoroughly, even the innocent have been found guilty by their own well-meaning testimony. But in the dystopian not-so-distant future world where the government can turn your smartphone into a microphone, law enforcement will already have access to everything you say before you get arrested. Formerly private confessions, however minor, friendly, even joking, could be used as evidence to convict you of a real crime, even future ones.

Internet Privacy makes everyone happy - ExpressVNP Everyone was happy. Until they realized the Earth’s mouth was an erupting super volcano.

This Is For Everyone

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

Every time a law is changed it’s because a critical mass of people dared to break the law and we found breaking it to be more beneficial than following it. Homosexuality used to be something to hide throughout America, and is in many places still punishable as a crime. We should consider ourselves lucky that gay rights evolved slightly faster than modern surveillance technology, otherwise it’s unlikely that any American would dare even admit to being gay anywhere within range of a smartphone microphone, let alone lobby publicly for the right to marry.

Mass surveillance threatens us all by accelerating the detection of crime to dangerous, algorithmic speeds. We want justice to be swift, but not so swift as to bypass critical thought. Having “something to hide” from the authorities sometimes results in great things for humanity.

Featured image: Nomad_Soul/Dollar Photo Club
Trust US image: mnovelo/Dollar Photo Club
Netflix Dreaming image: aerogondo/Dollar Photo Club
For Everyone image: honoka/Dollar Photo Club

Also published on Medium.

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