A lot of proprietary software, such as Google Chrome, Steam, Skype, and Discord, have a version programmed for Linux. However, you lose most of the privacy benefit of switching to Linux if you continue to use these programs. Yes, you’ve hidden your real IP address from Microsoft and Apple, but all the contents of your conversations and the websites you visit may all still be connected and monitored either directly on the proprietary platform, or potentially even metadata from outside the programs…
The true goal of Linux is to switch to users to open source software in addition to its operating system. Linux’s software model is to rely on package managers, which function like an app store, to give the user access to a huge amount of shared system resources and files. This allows the user to more efficiently utilize their system resources and to properly manage the dependency files upon which these software programs rely.
An advantage of Linux is that the user doesn’t have to redownload multiple copies of the same dependencies, and the system runs more efficiently and thus faster. But a huge disadvantage of Linux’s monolithic or “shared as one” package manager system is that if malicious software gets access to the user’s shared resources, it can more easily directly harm the user or do surveillance on other aspects of the system.
This means that if the user installs proprietary software on Linux, it may potentially spy on the user’s activities in some ways outside it’s own scope on other software, which is free and open source. This spying might take the form of collecting some type of metadata or could be as malicious as modifying the “bash RC,” which is the central file to manage the system.
Flatpaks aren’t that isolating
Flatpak is a form of installing software on Linux, which is outside of the package manager. The purpose of Flatpaks is that not all Linux distributions have all the different types of software. It is not practical for the software developers or the Linux distributions to have ALL software, so instead some software is released using common forms that work on every distribution such as Flatpak.
However since this Flatpak software is NOT vetted by the Linux distribution’s team, it is supposedly isolated by Flatpak’s technology from the rest of the system. One of the main weaknesses of Flatpak’s design is that it is a weak sandbox because it does not isolate the software from writing to the user’s home directory, which includes the biggest system file the Bash RC.
In conclusion, just switching to Linux isn’t that big a privacy benefit if the user continues to use a lot of proprietary software, because proprietary software has the potential to spy on the user, maybe even outside the software itself. Flatpaks are a form of isolation that supposedly sandboxes this “unvetted” software from outside the main package manager, but the sandbox isolation is weak because it can modify the user’s home directory. Even if proprietary software comes from the official package manager, it’s unknown exactly what it does.
Therefore, a privacy minded user should make effort to avoid proprietary software, and a switch to Linux should also be accompanied by a switch to free and open source software. If the user requires proprietary software, then it could be installed on a virtual machine which provides far more isolation from the rest of the system than Flatpak. You would get a lot out of subscribing for free to our new content by email, by Session messenger, via RSS feed, uncensored Ethereum push notifications, or on Nostr.