Staff Picks Open-source apps that respect your privacy

If you happen to live in a surveillance state, (and let's face it who isn't these days?), you can expect all your communications and computer activities to be monitored by third parties. Proprietary solutions such as Skype or Facebook are great but you can't fully trust them. Fortunately there are some open source apps that do respect your privacy and don't participate in mass surveillance . Use our list to find the best open source apps for keeping a low profile...

Unique web search app

YaCy (pronounced “ya see”) is a web search engine that has been created to do web search by the people for the people. Anyone can use YaCy to create a search portal; it’s completely decentralized; meaning all members are equal to one another. YaCy is a free distributed search engine, built on principles of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.
Each YaCy-peer independently crawls through the Internet, analyzes and indexes found web pages, and stores indexing results in a common database (so called index) which is shared with other YaCy-peers using principles of P2P networks. It can be run either in a crawling mode or as a local proxy server, indexing web pages visited by the person running YaCy on their computer. (Several mechanisms are provided to protect the user's privacy.) Access to the search functions is made by a locally running web server which provides a search box to enter search terms, and returns search results in a similar format to other popular search engines.

Self hosted Cloud storage alternative

SparkleShare generates a special folder on your PC wherein you can add remotely hosted folders (also called “projects”). Your projects can be hosted on our own server or on services like BitBucket, GitHub, Gitorious or Planio. Once you created your projects, they will be automatically kept in sync. Encryption is another benefit of SparkleShare and this option is great for preventing spying on your files. During initial setup SparkleShare will generate a unique Client ID. You’ll need it whenever you want to link your computer to another host.
SparkleShare is great for frequently changing project files but it is not recommended for storing photos, music or as a backup. SparkleShare is actually a really good solution for developers working on small projects.

A nice Skype alternative

Jitsi is a cross-platform, free and open-source program which supports Instant Messaging (IM), voice and video chat over the Internet. It supports many of the most popular and widely used IM and VoIP protocols, among them SIP (Session Initiated Protocol), Jabber/XMPP (used by Facebook and Google Talk), AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo! Messenger. It offers additional independent encryption for text chats through the OTR (Off-the-Record) protocol, and voice and video (ZRTP, SRTP) sessions.
Jitsi lets you log into several chat accounts at once. You just need to fill out your username and password for the accounts you already have. If you don’t have any accounts with the providers listed, you can directly create a new account by clicking on one of the “Not registered yet” links. It is as simple as that. Jitsi is a really nice app and as an added bonus, you will have all of your IM contacts in a single window.

Your Homemade Dropbox

If you want to synchronize available files on your computer with a remote server without having to subscribe to a service like Dropbox because you prefer to retain full ownership of your data, consider FTPBox. As soon as you launch FTPBox, it gives you the option to connect to a remote FTP server of your choice, and of course select a folder to synchronize to your computer. The application requires no installation program and links to the last uploaded file is automatically copied to the clipboard if you click on the tooltip that tells you it is sent to the server.Once the two directories, the remote and the local ones are specified, then the synchronization starts running. Great way to never have to loose a file again and to automatically share between multiple computers.
In the end, building your own personal storage cloud is just as easy and more advantageous in terms of both cost and data retention.