The best privacy apps for your Android smartphone or tablet will aim to help you better manage the security and privacy of your mobile device.
This is important as user privacy has become a big issue online, especially with the big increase in cookie tracking for marketing and data collection purposes online. On top of this, Android phone users have the additional concern of rogue apps that might try to tap into your data directly.
In order to protect your privacy there are, of course, basic settings that can help mitigate some of these issues. However, if you're serious about privacy, anonymity, and security, then you'll probably need to go a step further.
Additional options include authentication software, password management, browser addons, and keychains.
Here therefore are the best privacy apps and software tools for Android users.
A VPN (virtual private network) app is the biggest no-brainer privacy boost you can give to your Android device. VPNs not only hide your IP address from the sites and apps that you use, they hide the sites and apps you use from your internet service provider.
A VPN will also let you pretend to be in a different location, which is key for unblocking geo-restricted content.
The service already used industry-standard encryption and a choice of various other protocols (including IKEv2, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec) to keep your data safe. But perhaps most exciting is that it has now begun rolling out its very own Lightway protocol that seeks to increase speed and reliability even further.
But away from the numbers and specifications, it’s in our real-life testing where ExpressVPN really shines. For starters, it’s fast. Really fast, with fantastic connection speeds across servers in multiple countries. And that was using OpenVPN in our tests - the aforementioned Lightway option should increase that further still.
We also love just how easy to use this service is. That might seem obvious, but not every VPN provider out there has worked out how to make its tools intuitive, regardless of what device you're using it on. From desktop and mobile, to TV streamers and browser extensions, ExpressVPN is very easy to set up and operate for both pros and inexperienced users.
You can sign up for ExpressVPN at its website, where you can also claim three extra months free and unlimited secure cloud storage worth around $60 thrown in without charge.
- Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Kyms (which stands for ‘keep your media safe’) disguises itself as a normal calculator. On your home screen it even names itself ‘KyCalc’ and it can be used to do your sums. Entering a special four digit PIN and password, however, opens an encrypted vault, where you can store text images and videos.
Kyms also has a built-in web browser and can download online videos straight into the vault. There’s even a utility to transfer media to and from other devices over your network.
Naturally anyone who enters the name of the app into the Google Play store or examines its size on your system will know this is more than a simple calculator. But even then, they won’t know the password details (hopefully!).
Orbot has been developed by the Guardian Project as a way for your Android device to access the Tor network. When used along with its companion app, the Orfox browser, this lets you browse the web safely without worrying about sites tracking your location, as your connection is encrypted and routed through several different computers.
For extra security, use Tor hidden services. These are websites with the domain extension .onion which reside only in the ‘dark web’. For instance Facebook’s address is http://facebookcorewwwi.onion.
Do note, though, that as your data is being shunted through a number of computers, you may find your connection speed is much slower than usual. Such is the trade-off for tight privacy.
Major search engines like Google and Bing sometimes engage in leakage whereby your search term may be shared with third-parties like the sites you visit.
They also often save your search history with a timestamp and details of your device, meaning searches can be traced back to you. Sometimes they place virtual cookies on your device to record your search habits.
DuckDuckGo works as a drop-in replacement for your default search engine. Searches do not leak to other websites and this engine records no information about what you look for. It’s also ad-free. DuckDuckGo is compatible with Orbot (above), so you can hide your location from the sites you visit, too.
Keepass2Android is an Android version of the excellent password manager Keepass. Version 2 supports using key files as well as passwords, which is more secure. The password database can be stored on a remote folder (for example, in your Dropbox account) so you can access it both from your Android device and desktop computer.
If you prefer to keep your password database on the Android device only, there’s also an offline version of this app – click on the second of the download links below.
You can use Android’s copy/paste feature to enter passwords for any number of websites if you wish, or make use of Keepass2Android’s built-in keyboard to enter passwords, which is safer.
As the name suggests, Syncthing is used to synchronize (or ‘sync’) files between two devices, for instance you can use it to back up photos on your Android device to your home computer.
After installing the Android app and setting up Syncthing on a computer, any files or folders you select will be copied between devices via an encrypted connection.
As connections are peer-to-peer, you don’t have to store your data with a third-party cloud service like Dropbox. Plus you can add as many devices as you like to share files between.
Syncthing is open source, so its code can be checked for vulnerabilities by security boffins, and any problems should hopefully get fixed pronto.
The Firefox browser app aims to make your internet surfing experience more private than most other browsers, with additional built in privacy and security settings.
Additionally, you can use Firefox add-ons to further increase your privacy. Once you’ve installed Firefox from the Play store, open the menu and go to Tools > Add Ons > Browse all Firefox Add Ons.
Look under the Privacy & Security section and you can find add-ons such as Ghostery, which prevents websites leaving ‘tracking cookies’ on your device to monitor your browsing habits, and the likes of script blockers and ad blockers amongst many other security-related bits and pieces.
OpenKeychain is an implementation of OpenPGP (sometimes referred to as GPG). It allows you to generate a ‘public’ key which you give to others to allow them to encrypt and send messages to you, and a ‘private’ key which remains on your Android device and is used to decrypt incoming messages. Your private key can also digitally sign messages so people know they’re really from you.
If you’ve never used PGP/GPG before, a good non-geeky explanation of how it works is available here. This app is designed to integrate into the K-9 Mail app to allow for easy signing and encryption of all your emails.
- We've featured the best Linux distro for privacy and security.