6 Privacy Benefits of Using Linux | #linux | #linuxsecurity

You may have heard that Linux is the operating system to use if you care about privacy. But why is that? Is your data suddenly safe just because you use Linux?

Well, yes and no. Once you open up a web browser, you can give all of your data away just like you do on other platforms. But up until that point, no one has any insight into what you’re doing on your Linux-powered PC. Let’s go through some of the reasons why.

1. No Online Account Creation Required

Starting with Windows 11, a Microsoft account is required to sign in to the operating system. Chromebooks require a Google account unless you opt to only use the computer in guest mode. MacBooks don’t require an Apple account, but doing without means losing out on the App Store and many other built-in features. Like on Android and iOS, desktop OSes now prompt you to create an online account during the initial setup process.

Whenever you create an online account anywhere, someone is now able to collect certain information about you. When it comes to accounts for the devices that many of us carry with us everywhere or use on a daily basis, that’s giving a company volumes of intimate information about you.

On the overwhelming majority of Linux distributions, you aren’t prompted to create an online account, and you’re not sacrificing any features in the process. You can do whatever you want on your computer, including installing apps and downloading updates indefinitely, without giving a company access to what you do on your machine.

2. Apps That Don’t Track You

Like other OSes, most versions of Linux come with plenty of apps preinstalled. But unlike on commercial platforms, these apps don’t have a profit motive behind them. They aren’t trying to harvest data to sell or build a profile to show you ads. They aren’t trying to serve you up banner ads or pop-ups in the first place. Most don’t even monitor your behavior for diagnostic or bug-fixing purposes.

The majority of Linux software is open source, meaning the source code is publicly available for anyone to view, edit, and share. If someone put tracking into a program, someone else would likely discover this code and either call them out or redistribute a version of the program with the tracking removed.

In short, Linux apps don’t track you because they have no incentive to track you. Rather, they are incentivized not to track you.

3. No Bloatware

We expect computers to come with apps preinstalled. Some functionality—such as a web browser, a file manager, a text editor, and a calculator—have long been considered core parts of a desktop operating system. But many Windows computers come with far more programs than that. Some bundle a certain third-party company’s anti-virus software, another company’s music player, and a third company’s office suite.

This practice is so well-established that part of setting up a new Windows machine involves spending perhaps as much time removing the software that you don’t want as you do installing the programs that you need. Some of this software actively tracks you or requires signing up for yet another service, which then tracks you.

Apple’s computers may not come bundled with third-party software, but you still get hit with Apple’s many offerings that you may not be interested in. Much of this software you can’t easily uninstall. Some of this software also requires an Apple ID.

Most Linux distros come with a full array of preinstalled software. But unlike on commercial operating systems, you can remove any of these programs.

Some apps are more challenging to remove using a graphical app because your desktop environment considers them essential to its functioning as expected, but there’s nothing to stop more technical users from opening a terminal and removing those programs using the command line. After all, on Linux, you can remove the entire desktop environment and swap it for another if you wish.

4. Easy Storage Drive Encryption

When you install Linux, you have the option to encrypt your hard drive in the process. This has become the default behavior for many Linux distributions. That’s great, but this is only part of the story.

Not only is your desktop or laptop encrypted, but it’s easy to encrypt other forms of media. You can encrypt your flash drive or your hard drive using software that comes preinstalled, for free. Though it isn’t obvious in the screenshot above, checking “Password Protect Volume (LUKS)” will encrypt the drive in question. This is using GNOME Disks, the partition editor that comes with many of the most popular Linux distros.

Encrypting devices is kept obscure enough on proprietary OSes that some external media companies offer pre-encrypted drives as an upsell. Or you can buy paid software to encrypt your drives.

On Linux, you can encrypt your data, easily and for free, using the same level of encryption (or more) that many companies want you to pay for.

5. Continuous Free Updates

Privacy and security aren’t the same thing, but the two do go hand-in-hand. A device that is insecure is one that is more likely to compromise your privacy.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest system updates is an essential component in keeping your computer secure. More commercial OSes come with an expected end-of-life period. On Windows, this is tied to your version of Windows. Eventually, Microsoft ends support for older versions of Windows.

On Chromebooks and Apple devices, the support period is tied to your device. Each device gets a certain number of years of updates.

On Linux, you get updates for as long as your computer is capable of running your distro of choice. In other words, you won’t find yourself switching to a new computer because the support period has ended. As long as you set up a regular update routine, or set updates to install automatically, you know your machine will remain relatively secure, and that will help keep your data private.

6. Privacy-Hardened Distros

While most Linux distros offer greater privacy than commercial operating systems, there are some privacy-oriented Linux distros that take things up to the next level. These are the kind of distros you use if privacy is essential to your job or even a matter of life or death.

These distros take steps to improve your privacy out-of-the-box, such as bundling in the Tor browser or including a VPN. Tails, for example, deletes all data when you power off your computer except for the files you save in an encrypted folder. Qubes OS essentially runs each program in its own virtual machine, preventing software from spying on what else you’re doing on your PC.

Using one of these privacy-oriented distros introduces more inconvenience than most people want to put up with, but if you want to be sure your computing is as private as possible, they can save you a great deal of time and effort.

Linux Does Not Guarantee Privacy

Again, using Linux does not guarantee that your data is private. ChromeOS is, after all, a Linux distro that funnels leagues of information about you to Google. If you install Chrome, Steam, Discord, and other proprietary apps onto your system, you will still give many companies access to what you read, what you play, and who you talk to.

But on Linux, you have greater control over your privacy. You can choose what to install and what not to, deciding for yourself what data you’re comfortable sharing. You can trust your PC and focus on establishing smart practices online.

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