What To Actually Evaluate When Choosing Privacy Applications for Mac

8 minute read
| Deep Dive

Privacy is all the rage in this time of surveillance and tracking. It’s gotten to the point where it’s become a sought-after commodity. And, why shouldn’t we want more privacy?

Advertising companies track our every move on the internet, our ISPs view and record our online traffic, criminals spread their latest malware, and our Governments themselves spy on us. All of them have different motives but they’re all out to get our precious personal data and information.

So, what do we do?

We fight technology with technology, of course!

There’s a myriad of privacy tech available on the market today. You’ve probably tried (if not, at least heard of) some of the following privacy software:

  • Data encryption apps: encrypts your data to prevent third parties from reading them.
  • Cleaner apps: these apps clean your cache of any unnecessary log files, residual app data, and other files.
  • Firewalls: protects your Mac from untrustworthy sites.
  • VPNs: secures your Mac by hiding your IP and encrypting your online traffic.
  • Antivirus programs: searches and destroys hidden malware and protects from new ones.
  • Password managers: secures your privacy by keeping multiple strong passwords.

Choosing which software you need for your Mac comes easy if you’ve been in the online privacy niche for quite a while. But, what if you’re just starting out? How do you evaluate each app to see if it suits your privacy needs?

Look no further. With this post, you’ll learn the essential factors when evaluating privacy apps for your Mac. You’ll also find some examples and suggestions for the essential privacy apps that no Mac should be without. You can either try out my suggestions or use them as your baseline.

So, let’s get started!

Function and Features

Of course, these should be the first thing you look for in any privacy app. After all, they’re the primary reason why you wanted the app in the first place.

There is a slew of different privacy apps to choose from- each with different functions and features. Make sure that the app can at least do it’s primary function well.

For example:

When looking for any app that offers encryption (data encryption apps, password managers, and VPNs), make sure it employs at least AES 256-bit encryption. This is the encryption standard used by tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and even the US military!

The thing with some security apps is that they offer several functions already offered by singular-function apps. The problem with these “jack of all trades” apps is that some of their functions aren’t up to the standard of the best single-function apps.

An example of these jack of all trades apps is Norton Security Deluxe. It comes with an antivirus, a built-in firewall, and file cleaner. Now, while it offers more functionality, it isn’t necessarily the best antivirus for your Mac. It’s still a good app, but if you’re looking for the best antivirus apps, I have a link for them in my suggestions list below.

The takeaway here:

Quality over quantity. If you want optimum efficiency and no redundant functions, it’s better to get wholly separate single-function apps (like the ones in my suggestions list below) rather than settle for a mediocre one.

Questions to ask:

  • What does the app do?
  • Are my other apps doing the same thing?
  • Do I need this particular feature?

Origin

The next thing you should watch out for is the team behind the app.

Knowing the company or team behind the app gives you an idea of the app’s reliability. They might be a young Kickstarter company or a grizzled veteran. Needless to say, beware of companies who have been involved in privacy or security issues.

Read up on their achievements both as individuals and as a team or company. While these may not necessarily carry over to the app, they do at least give you an idea of what the developers are capable of and what you can expect from their product.

Of particular importance is the company’s location. They might be in a 14-eyes jurisdiction which means their government can compel them to hold and surrender any and all user data they have collected.

Questions to ask:

  • Who’s behind the app?
  • What are their credentials?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Where are they based?

Usability

Now, you know what it does and you know who built it. Your next question should be: Is it usable?

An app may be made by the biggest, most innovative company and packed with the best features but it won’t be any good if you can’t figure out how to use it. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to install and set up.

Additionally, it should have a user-friendly interface that lets you access what you need with the least amount of hassle. On the other hand, if you’re a little more tech savvy, does the app have advanced settings that let you do more detailed tweaks?

Lastly, the support team behind the app should be responsive and knowledgeable. You would not believe the amount of time and effort you can save with a 24/7 live chat support team.

Questions to ask:

  • How easy is it to install and set up?
  • How easy is it to use?
  • Can you easily find what you need?

Cost

The next thing to watch out for is the cost.

This is important, especially when comparing free privacy apps with those that you pay for. There’s usually a stark difference in features and security between the free and paid ones.

Many password managers like Dashlane come free but let you upgrade to the premium version. Doing so lets you handle an unlimited number of devices.

The clearest difference between free and paid version can be seen with VPNs. This is because not only do most free VPNs log your data (which again is risky if they’re inside 14-eyes jurisdiction), they also sell your data to third party advertising companies. This defeats the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.

Long story short: you may want to consider a paid app, especially when it’s your privacy and security on the line.

Questions to ask:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Is there a difference between the paid and free version?

Performance

So, you know what the privacy app does, who built it, how to use it, and how much it costs. Everything looks good on paper. But, how does it perform?

Knowing how the app performs gives you a first-hand look at what you can expect in the long run. You may like everything you see but you may dislike the hands-on experience you get.

If the app has a free and paid version, try the free version first. This lets you test the waters to see if everything is exactly to your liking.

Check how the app feels and how fast it is. It shouldn’t take a lifetime to boot up and start doing what it promised. You can learn a lot from the free trial period that many paid apps offer.

Only get the paid version once you’re satisfied. This will save you from a lot of lost time and money in the long run.

Questions to ask:

  • How does it perform?
  • Does it do what it promised?
  • How fast is it?

Reputation

If you don’t have the time to test the app yourself, you can always look for official and user reviews.

With so many people around the world, you’re bound to find some who are vocal about their experience with the product. You can then learn from their mistakes.

If you’re downloading the app from the Mac app store, peruse the user ratings and reviews before anything else. Try to look for positive and negative user reviews. That way you can weigh in the pros and cons of the product.

You can also find truly detailed reviews for the app you plan to get if you check out official sites. The beauty of these sites is that they often attract users who also comment their own reviews.

Beware, though. Not all sites can be trusted as they may have been paid by the company behind the product. Look for a site you can trust and stick with them.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the positive things the reviews say?
  • What about the negative things?
  • Was the author of the review paid by the company behind it?

Essential Privacy Apps no Mac Should be Without

Now:

When looking for essential privacy apps for your Mac, know that you don’t need a whole lot to get by. In fact, you can do wonders for your privacy with just 5 core privacy apps.

Don’t know exactly which privacy apps your Mac needs? Here’s a list I put together to get you started. I also included a link to some suggestions at the end of each entry which you can try or at least use a baseline for comparing other apps you find.

VPN

A VPN is one of the best security and privacy apps for any device. It not only hides your IP address but also encrypts your internet traffic. This keeps your online habits and personal information safe from anyone snooping around.

NOTE: Stay away from free VPNs as they tend to log your information and sell it to advertisers.

Instead, check out this list of the 5 best VPNs for Mac.

Antivirus

A good antivirus program not only seeks and destroys malware already in your computer but also keeps more from infecting it.

What’s that? The Mac is immune to viruses you say? Think again.

The thing is:

While most viruses target non-Apple devices, this doesn’t mean that the Mac can’t be targeted. This is why it’s better to be safe than sorry.

NOTE: Beware of fake antivirus apps that extort you for your money. Only download antivirus programs after researching on them.

That said, here’s a list of the top 6 free security tools for Mac.

Firewall

A firewall establishes a barrier that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic between a trusted and untrusted network (the internet).

Now, your Mac does come with a built-in firewall feature. But, this default firewall isn’t as strong and as detailed as 3rd party firewall apps. This is why it’s always better to get the real thing.

Here’s a list of the 4 best Apple firewalls for Mac.

Password manager

If you’ve ever made strong passwords, you know how troublesome they can be to remember.

With a password manager, you won’t have to write them down in a piece of paper that you could lose. They can also come with features like auto-populating passwords or personal information forms in a website.

Most password managers come free but have paid versions with better or expanded features. Here’s a list of the top 5 best password managers for Mac.

File cleaner

Keeping your Mac free from files that you’d rather delete can be tedious. It could involve hours of laborious searching and deleting of several or singular files, documents, photos, emails or residual app data.

What’s more, you could miss a couple of files that could spell trouble or embarrassment in the future.

A file cleaner app lets you clean your Mac’s files quickly and conveniently with just a few taps.

NOTE: Cleaner apps may claim to make your Mac run as good as new. This isn’t true, as the only reason why a new computer runs quickly is because it has tons of disc space. Restoring your Mac’s speed to its former glory can’t be done simply because you cleaned a few gigabytes of data.

Now, that you’ve been given more realistic expectations, here’s a list of the 5 best Mac cleaners to date.

Conclusion

If you want to find the best privacy apps for your Mac, you’re going to need to do some research.

Ask a lot of questions and have a close look at an app’s function and features, origin, usability, cost, performance, and reputation.

Reading through some of the suggestions above can give you more insight as to what the best privacy apps look and feel like.