Tools for sharing documents while keeping your privacy

As our work has been moved online, increasing concerns on online privacy and security have been raised. For this reason, we believe it is important to understand what tools we are using, how they are collecting, using and storing our personal data, and which options we have, even for the simplest of them.

The following tools allow teams to work on collaborative documents, and two of them have particularly advanced security options.

 

Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides

These very known tools allow people to create shared text files, spreadsheets, and presentations (and much more), in the Google Drive account.

The tools are completely free, and allow for easy editing and styling, as well as choosing from numerous available templates. The documents can be accessed in real time from everywhere, and are automatically saved. Different people can work on the same document, at the same time, and have access to a live chat. Add-ons and in-app Google search allow users to be even more productive!

 

Etherpad by RiseUp

Etherpad is a software libre web application that allows for real-time group collaboration of text documents. Riseup does not store IP addresses, they require https, and pads are automatically destroyed after 60 days of inactivity.

For added security, you can access the web application via the Riseup VPN or a Tor hidden service.

 

CryptPad

With CryptPad, you can make quick collaborative documents, accessing a CryptDrive where you can organize all of your pads. Free registered users usually get 50MB of space, but it was upgraded to 1GB due to the crisis. A CryptPad document can be simply shared through a link, both in read only mode, or collaborative mode.

CryptPad uses 100% client-side encryption to protect the content. Also username and password are computed into a secret key using scrypt key derivation function. Neither this key, nor the username and password are ever sent to the server. Instead they are used on the client side to decrypt the content of your CryptDrive, which contains the keys to all pads that you are able to access. When you share the link to a document, you’re sharing the cryptographic key for accessing that document but since the key is in the fragment identifier, it is never directly sent to the server.

As complicating as it might seem, the use of the tool itself is very simple and user-friendly, just as a Google Doc, but with an extra shield around it.