Most people take steps to protect their desktop PCs from cyber threats but fewer realize that there are a ton of privacy apps for Android devices too. These can provide an extra layer of security on mobile devices by shielding your online activity from snoopers, letting you know if you have weak passwords, and helping you store sensitive information like credit card details safely.
Our team of experts has tested dozens of privacy apps and secure browsing tools to see which are worth using and which are best avoided. Below, we’ll list the best privacy-enhancing apps for Android.
Best Android apps for online privacy
Here’s our list of the best Android apps to protect your privacy online:
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If you’re not browsing the web with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed, now’s a good time to get with the program. There are countless free VPNs out there, but this is one area where it really is worth going for a reputable paid service.
VPNs work by encrypting all the traffic flowing to and from your device and sending it through a server in another location. This hides your anyone who might be watching, including your service provider, government, or network administrator.
VPNs have other advantages, too; they can help you torrent safely, regain access to geo-restricted content such as Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN while traveling abroad, and improve your anonymity while using the Tor Browser.
NordVPN makes the cut due to its powerful security features, robust speeds, and vast server network. What’s more, it’s optimized for mobile devices, so it won’t have a huge impact on your battery life. Unlike most free VPNs, this service follows a true no-logs policy, meaning it can’t share details of your online activity under any circumstances. Further, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
BEST VPN FOR ANDROID PRIVACY:NordVPN is our #1 choice. With a vast server network that is optimized for high-speed connections, it’s perfect for secure browsing on Android devices. Lots of top-tier security features. A 30-day money-back guarantee means you can try it risk-free.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
2. Signal Private Messenger
End-to-end encryption is now somewhat of a default standard across messaging apps, with the likes of WhatsApp and LINE catching on. But privacy enthusiasts can do better than WhatsApp since it’s owned by the data-hungry leviathan Meta (previously known as Facebook).
Signal Private Messenger is a messaging service with a strong focus on privacy. With open-source code and end-to-end encryption for all messages, it has become a favorite of journalists and activists around the world. Additionally, because it’s open-source, it’s possible for anyone to verify its security by auditing the code.
In addition to using peer-reviewed cryptographic protocols, Signal keeps your information safe by storing no logs. There’s no retention of metadata, such as lists of members, group icons, or names. These are all examples of data that may be tracked by other messaging apps.
Download Signal from the Google Play Store.
Millennials might tend to forget that their smartphones actually double up as phones, too, where voice calls are initiated over wireless telecommunication networks and not just WhatsApp. Having said that, it’s a pain when you hand out your phone number to a sales rep and are then inundated with sales calls.
Hushed enables you to create burner (temporary) phone numbers, so your real one remains hidden. It’s perfect for when you’re posting an advertisement on Craigslist or filling out a web form. It can also be handy for creating alternate caller IDs, managing multiple lines for personal and business use, and eliminating the need to carry a second phone.
Hushed currently offers a three-day free trial, and you can pay via Google Play, so there’s no need to provide credit card details.
Download Hushed for Android devices.
Google is an incredible tool, and without it we’d surely be worse off. That said, it does collect a staggering amount of personal data. That’s what allows it to deliver those pesky targeted advertisements every time we visit a website or track our daily commute for better travel recommendations. Of course, some of Google’s policies are downright invasive, and many users sign up without understanding that they’re pretty much agreeing to constant monitoring of their digital footprints.
DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that stores no data and goes out of its way to limit the information that websites or apps can collect about you. Its built-in security features block advertising networks from tracking you to the effect that you’re essentially tracking who’s trying to track you. It also tries to compel sites to use an encrypted connection whenever available, although we maintain that a VPN should be your first resource in that area.
If you like DuckDuckGo, you might be interested to learn that it just launched its own browser for desktop systems, which includes a password manager.
Download DuckDuckGo for Android directly from the Google Play Store.
Google’s invasive tracking features aren’t limited to its search engine. Algorithms are at work within Gmail too so that Google can serve more highly targeted ads and tailored recommendations. But the most worrying part about Gmail and many other popular email providers is that they’re not end-to-end encrypted.
ProtonMail is a far more secure alternative to Gmail and its peers. It was engineered by scientists at CERN and remains open source so that its code can be audited whenever needed. This organization also has its own Google Drive alternative, password manager, and VPN, all of which work on mobile devices.
The app enables you to send password-protected emails and messages that self-destruct after a certain timeframe. Since all messages are encrypted, even the company cannot figure out the content of your communications.
Download ProtonMail for Android phones.
We all have a tendency to use the same password across multiple sites and apps. After all, constantly generating new ones is a pain, and the process of recovery can be quite cumbersome. But the problem with this approach is that it leaves you susceptible to an egregious hack; one weak password means all your social media and email accounts are at risk.
LastPass doubles up as a password manager and generator that stores your personal information, credit card info, and PIN codes in a secure vault. It can even be set up to automatically change passwords for select sites from time to time. Most importantly, it supports two-factor authentication, making it extremely difficult for anyone else to access your vault.
LastPass has its own app for Android phones and is available on the Google Play Store.
7. Find My Device
Find My Device is a proprietary app from Google and works in a similar vein to Find My iPhone. It helps by locating your Android device when lost, although you can also disable it remotely it if you think it has been stolen. You can set it up to view location information, as well as play a sound in case it’s within earshot.
If the phone is lost, you can use the app to leave a callback number on the screen. So if a good samaritan comes across it, they’ll have no trouble returning it to you. Best of all, this service is completely free to use and can be accessed through the web as well as the app.
Download Find My Device for Android.
8. Norton Security and Antivirus
Did you know that there are antivirus apps for Android phones? These don’t just protect you from cyber threats like phishing, but can also provide an extra layer of security by removing malware and spyware that’ll potentially lock you out of your phone in the future.
Norton’s a well-known name in the antivirus industry, and its Android app comes packed with many great features. Besides routinely scanning your device, it also enables users to block unwanted calls and text messages, remotely lock devices, and locate the device on a map if lost or stolen. Best of all, this app has minimal impact on your battery life.
Download Norton Security and Antivirus from the Google Play Store.
9. Smart AppLock
Swipe patterns and numeric PIN codes only serve to lock the front screen of our phones. After that, individual apps and folders can be accessed with a tap of a finger. That’s not great for security or practicality. For example, you might need to hand your phone to someone to view a document but would feel uncomfortable with them sifting through personal data. Or you might allow your kids to play games on your phone but don’t want them accessing certain applications.
App locks enable you to alter permission settings for individual apps on your phone. This means a third party can’t open your WhatsApp, Facebook, or Twitter apps unless they input another password.
Download Smart AppLock from the Google Play Store.
How else can I protect my privacy on Android?
There are thousands of privacy apps that work on Android phones, and we obviously can’t cover all of them. However, there are a few quick, easy, and free ways to shield your online activity while using a mobile device. Here are a few of them:
- Switch to Firefox. The Android version lets you install extensions that block ads, protect against browser fingerprinting, and reject cookies automatically
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible: 2FA ensures that attackers can’t just crack one weak password and access your account.
- Consider privacy-enhancing alternatives: There are plenty of private search engines, messaging apps, and secure browsing tools for Android phones. For instance, you may want to try out the Tor Browser, Qwant, or Telegram.
- Educate yourself: Learning the basics of cybersecurity can help you avoid most cyber threats and keep your online activity secure.
Best Android apps to protect privacy: FAQs
Why is protecting my privacy online so important?
You might be surprised just how much of your personal information hackers and snoopers are able to access. The risk is that failing to protect your data may result in identity theft, online fraud, or misuse of your data. Needless to say, no one wants the stress that comes with such attacks. However, you can prevent yourself from having to contend with this by protecting your privacy online through the best Android apps, such as NordVPN, Signal, and ProtonMail.
Is it legal to use a VPN on Android?
For the most part, you don’t need to worry about the legality of using a VPN or any of the other apps on our list. It’s perfectly legal to use a VPN on Android or, indeed, any other operating system. What’s more, VPNs are legal in nearly every country. However, some countries, such as China and Russia, have cracked down on their use. As long as your online activity while using a VPN remains legal, you’re highly unlikely to encounter any issues.
Disclaimer: Although we’ve spent hours researching this topic, we are not legal experts. As such, nothing we’ve said above should be taken as legal advice. We encourage you to consult local laws or perhaps even seek a professional’s opinion before attempting to use a VPN if you’re not sure it’s legal.
Why should I avoid free Android VPNs?
Free VPNs on the Play Store are often unsafe and may contain malicious code that can infect your device. Not only that, but they tend to have low monthly bandwidth limits, slow speeds, and poor streaming ability.