online privacySource: Pango/ Hotspot Shield

Best Privacy Apps for Android Android Central 2020

Most people use the term privacy app and VPN (a virtual private network) interchangeably, and while these programs give you a wide range of tools like data encryption, secure browsing, and location shields, there are other programs out there that also give you ways to secure your Android phone. Bitdefender Mobile Security is the best because it has most of the privacy tools you need in one app including a VPN, safe browsing, and remote locating and locking of your device.

Best Overall: Bitdefender Mobile Security

Bitdefender Mobile Antivirus ScreenshotSource: Nicole Johnston/Android Central

Bitdefender is my top pick for virus protection on both computers and mobile dvices, and part of its package is 200Mbps of daily VPN encryption. This isn't a lot, but it is enough to keep what you're doing in apps or online private from internet snoops. It also has safe browsing that not only keeps your online browser history from being tracked, but also warns of dangerous websites before you access them, stops malicious downloads, and blocks phishing schemes.

Bitdefender includes a personal firewall, which is a good tool to have while connected to public hotspots. It does take up more resources than other privacy apps, so it will cause slightly more slowdown of your device compared to other solutions. But it won't be enough to cause any real headaches.

Another security tool included with Bitdefender Mobile Security is remote location. This helps track down your phone if it is ever lost or stolen. You can also use this remote access tool to lock down apps or wipe all personal information from your phone so it can't be compromised.

Pros:

  • Includes virus protection
  • Comes with a firewall
  • Blocks phishing schemes
  • Remote location and app lock
  • Included VPN

Cons:

  • Higher use of resources
  • Data limits

Best Overall

Bitdefender Mobile Security

Privacy and malware protection

Bitdefender keeps your Android free from malware while also protecting your privacy with its VPN service.

Best VPN App: Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield ScreenshotSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

The biggest reason to use a privacy app on your Android is to keep your personal information safe while connected to public hotspots. This is where you're most vulnerable to hackers and snoops. Hotspot Shield is a VPN app that automatically enables when your device is turned on and keeps your mobile information private so it can't be tracked and your devices won't be hacked. Whatever you do online is kept confidential, so you won't be bothered by spyware or adware that likes to create personal ads based on the items you've bought or searched for. Hotspot Shield uses AES 256-bit encryption, which is the highest code available and used by the U.S. military and banks to secure sensitive digital information.

This privacy app doesn't work to secure individual apps, which is okay since your whole device is shielded once the privacy app is enabled. However, it does interfere with streaming apps, like Hulu and Disney+. You can work around this and watch these streaming services through a web browser rather than the mobile app.

Pros:

  • Automatic connection
  • Designed for use with public Wi-Fi
  • Secure encryption

Cons:

  • No direct app protection
  • Does interfere with some streaming apps

Best VPN App

Hotspot Shield

Private connections in public places

Hotspot Shield is especially good at protecting your privacy while connected to public Wi-Fi by using military-grade encryption.

Best Safe Browser App: Tor Browser

Tor Browser ScreenshotSource: Google Play

This browser covers your tracks as you search and browse online. It doesn't shield you quite in the same way as a VPN does, but it does keep ads at bay and wipes cookies away each time you leave a website. The Tor Browser makes it difficult for adware to figure out your history to create targeted ads based on what you've searched for or bought online. All Tor users look the same from the backend.

While you are in the Tor Browser app, you can't take screenshots of what you're looking at. This is just another layer of security to ensure your personal information is kept safe.

While Tor is a good tool for securing your privacy, it has a reputation for allowing its app to be used for illegal purposes, such as accessing restricted regional websites. I don't condone illegal behavior, but if you just need safe browsing then Tor Browser is a good choice.

Pros:

  • Blocks adware
  • Clears cookies automatically
  • Hides browser history
  • Free to use

Cons:

  • Often used for illegal purposes
  • Can't take screenshots

Best Safe Browser App

Tor Browser

Browse safe and under the radar

Tor Browser secures your online browser history by blocking adware and clearing cookies each time you leave a website.

Best Password Manager App: Dashlane

Dashline App ScreenshotSource: Google Play

This app places all your passwords and login credentials into a secured app that makes it more difficult for keyloggers and other internet snoops to swipe them as you log into online accounts. Dashlane uses a single, main password to secure all the individual passwords, so if the app is penetrated, only this one password is compromised and not the others (it's difficult for hackers to figure out that this password is to a password manager app and not to your online account). As you set up a Dashlane account, it will let you know if your password is good or not. And it will help you update passwords to online accounts and make sure they are difficult to figure out.

There is a desktop version of Dashlane, too, that works with browsers on your computers. You can sync the app and your desktop programs together so if one updates a password the other is automatically updated, too.

There isn't much more than this app does than secure information. It doesn't stop malware or spyware or adware from watching your online movement or infecting your computer. However, for the purpose of keeping personal and confidential information secure, Dashlane is the best.

Pros:

  • Secures all login credentials
  • Syncs with the desktop version
  • Helps strengthen passwords
  • Free to use

Cons:

  • No other security features

Best Password Manager App

Dashlane

Shield passwords and usernames

Dashlane hides your login information while you sign into your online email, social media and banking accounts.

Best Ad Blocker App: Ghostery

Ghostery App ScreenshotSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

This ad blocking app gives you a safe browser that looks, feels, and acts just like Google Chrome. However, it blocks popup ads from interrupting your browsing. For every site you visit Ghostery gives you a rundown of how many ads it's blocked. On top of blocking annoying ads, Ghostery also blocks internet trackers or adware that is designed to swipe your browser history and use it to create targeted ads made especially for you. Ghostery will also automatically block adult sites, too.

On the main page of this browser, Ghostery lists your top-visited sites so you can quickly link to them. And I've found the Ghostery safe browser much faster at loading pages and navigating between sites compared to Google Chrome. It's worth noting, however, that this app doesn't recognize phishing schemes or stop malicious downloads coming in from online, so you will be to be extra vigilant when you click on or install an antivirus program to help with these potential threats.

Pros:

  • Blocks ads in bowsers
  • Removes internet trackers
  • Can automatically block adult websites
  • Fast browsing

Cons:

  • No malware protection

Best Ad Blocker App

Ghostery

Safe browsing with adblocking

Ghostery does double duty by providing a safe way to browse the internet while blocking adware and popup ads.

Best Encryption App: Folder Lock

Folder Lock ScreenshotSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

As I've tested encryption software over the years, I've always been impressed with how quick and secure Folder Lock works. This program sends important data through its programs and scrambles it so your files can't be swiped by snoops or ransomware. Folder Lock uses an AES-256-bit key algorithm, which is the most secure code available and the one used by financial institutions and militaries to encrypt and secure their data. It's also fast. In my tests of encryption program, Folder Lock encrypted 123MB of data in less than six seconds and compressed the file down to 97% of its original size.

All encrypted documents are secured with a password you set up. You can choose to encrypt a vault where all encrypted data is stored, or password protect each individual file. Because Folder Lock is so secure, it doesn't have any way to recover lost or forgotten passwords. This means you will need to have a good memory or have a secure place to jot down or remember your passwords so important documents aren't lost.

Pros:

  • Uses military-grade encryption
  • File shredder included
  • Compresses encrypted folders

Cons:

  • No password recovery

Best Encryption App

Folder Lock

Encrypt and compress important files

Folder Lock encrypts and locks down important files using 256-bit encryption and a password you set.

Best Device Locator App: Google Find My Device

Find My Device App ScreenshotSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

Find Device by Google is a handy tool for locating a phone or tablet that has been lost or stolen. It pings your device to find out where it is. If the device isn't on, Find Device will still show you the last pace is was used before it died or was turned off. This information is still helpful when tracking down a lost phone. In order to use this app, you will need to create a Google account so that Find Device can tap into the Google Map resources.

While looking for your phone, Find Device shows a message on the lost phone mentioning that you're looking for it. This isn't helpful if the device is stolen but can be if it is simply lost and found by someone. Once you phone is located, you can use the app to place a help message on the lock screen that includes you address or phone number. That way if it is pickup by someone, they can more easily find you to return it. However, Find Device doesn't have any better options for securing a stolen device. You can't wipe sensitive data, or remotely lock down apps. You can't change the password of your phone or wipe personal information off it.

Pros:

  • Uses Google Maps to locate device
  • Can be used even when device is off
  • Shows current battery life

Cons:

  • Notifies thieves
  • Can't remotely change passwords
  • Have to create a Google account

Best Device Locator App

Google Find My Device

Quickly locate a lost or stolen device

Find Device uses Google Maps to help find a missing device. You can see how much battery life is left and when it was last used.

Bottom line

While each of the privacy apps listed here is very good at keeping your information cloaked, Bitdefender Mobile Security is ultimately the best choice because of how many tools are included with this single application. Bitdefender includes a VPN that encrypts all outgoing and incoming data, masks your device's location and gives you remote accessing tools for locating and locking down your phone in case it is ever lost or stolen.

It has a bunch of other tools, too. Its firewall monitors communication coming in through your internet connection and is especially helpful in cutting down snoop's access to your device while connected to public Wi-Fi. It also recognizes and blocks phishing schemes, protects you while you browse online and keeps your Android clear of malware. It is missing a password manager, but that is the only additional app you may need to download to make your phone truly secure.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Nicole Johston writes for multiple Future Publishing brands, including Android Central, covering primarily internet security and privacy programs. She has over 13 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sector, including seven years of testing and reviewing consumer products and five evaluating antivirus software, parental controls, VPNs and identity theft services.


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