[[!meta title="Interviews of users"]]
We are collecting here summaries and insights from interviews
with Tails users.
In their shortest form, these can be
that are designed to increase understanding and dialogue through a series of
quick questions that take no more than 10 to 15 minutes of dialogue.
The email address of the interviewees are stored in the internal Git
The names of the interviewees are changed but loosely related in terms
of gender, language, and age. For list of popular given names see:
- [[!wikipedia List_of_most_popular_given_names desc="Wikipedia: List of most popular given names"]]
- [[!wikipedia Category:English_male_given_names desc="Wikipedia: English male given names"]]
- [[!wikipedia Category:English_female_given_names desc="Wikipedia: English female given names"]]
Intercept interview script
- Who I am, what I am doing, and why I'm conducting the interview.
- Getting the interviewee's consent:
- You can answer my questions to the extend that you feel comfortable
and stop at any moment.
- We want to keep this information publicly available for contributors
of the project but in generic terms, removing personally
- The user
- Who are you? What do you do?
- Tails & you:
- How did you come to be interested in Tails and get started?
- What is your level of expertise with Tails?
- What do you use it for? How often?
- Pros & cons:
- What are the three things that you like the most in Tails?
- What are the three things that you dislike the most in Tails?
- Good bye:
- Thank you!
- Would you give us your email if you want to keep in touch for future
questions or go deeper? Emails are stored encrypted and only
accessible to the core contributors.
- Do you know of anybody else using Tails and that would be worth
Resources on interviewing users
- [Steve Portigal, _Interviewing Users_](http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=steve+portigal+interviewing+users)
Tips when taking notes
- Whenever possible, try to transcribe the language, mental model, and
understanding of the interviewee. The interviewee might use a
different word than what we usual use (for example, "permanent"
instead of "persistent") or think that something is not possible in
Tails while it is. Don't correct them during the interview (you can
clarify things that could be helpful for them at the very end) and
transcribe this in your summary.
Template email for validating the output
> Thank you so much for taking some time to answer my questions about
> Tails the other day!
> I'm sending you here what I plan to store in our public working
> documents on our website. Please correct me if I misunderstood
> something or if you want me to remove some bits.
Bea, August 2018
Bea is from North America but lives in Latin America where she does
political work as a volunteer in a grassroots organization.
Her organization is very diverse and includes peasants associations,
student's groups, women's groups, human-rights defenders, environmental
struggles, struggles against the mining industry, etc. During their
national gathering, tens of thousands of people come together and,
during other national events like general strikes, they mobilize
hundreds of thousands of people in the streets.
In the organization, she is part of a small group in charge of
international relations: answering emails from people outside the
country who want to know about the organization and communicating with
other grassroots organizations around the world.
Her small group really got started with Tails after reading a digital
security guide by a European activist group. Their started using
*portable* systems as a simple way of protecting themselves from all
kinds of digital threats.
Before using Tails they also used another custom live system built by
some friends of them and also based on Debian. As of today, many people
in her organization are still using this custom system. They are pushing
them to migrate to Tails because the kind of community behind Tails
makes it look safer to them.
Bea uses Tails for 2 main reasons:
- For the sake of learning and being able to teach others.
By using tools like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, or Tails herself, she
knows better how they work and she can analyze digital threats better.
People are often scared of many things but she feels the need to
analyze what are the real threats and the data they manipulate.
- For personal use.
She uses her computer for her work within the organization, to handle
the web and the social media of the organization as well as of another
NGO in North America that struggles against the mining industry.
Even though her laptop is running Mint, is encrypted, and has Tor,
Bitmask, GPG, and everything, she knows that her activism, her
computer, and her online life is monitored, for example by companies
from the mining industry.
So she sometimes turns to Tails to have an extra "window of privacy"
and do more personal stuff that she doesn't want to be linked to her
political life, like access a secure personal email account, or
use the Internet without leaving traces and risking to get spyware or
malware on her computer.
Only a few people were using Tails in her organization until now because
the website was not translated into Spanish. This year, they started to
give workshops on Tails within the organization. As people from the
international relations group all speak several languages, "hacking" on
digital security tools was more accessible to them and they ended up
being the ones giving workshops and teaching others.
Bea are her group are recommending Tails mostly to 2 kind of people:
- People who don't have a computer and always use shared computers.
Sometimes the people reporting human-rights violations in their
community work on a shared computer, that runs Windows and is the same
as the ones that the kids use to play online or watch movies, it's
full of viruses, a real catastrophe.
They try to convince them to use Tails with a persistent memory to
manipulate the data on human-rights violations and keep it out of
their Windows. Even though these people might still use GMail...
Using GMail from Tails is a bit more complicated but it's possible.
You only get more security checks. So it's important to have another
email account as a backup in case they block your account.
- People who want to have more secure communications.
They teach them Thunder, GPG, and how to replace their GMail with a
secure email. For example, when the human-rights reporter from a
community communicates with the regional and national reporters, to
avoid sending the reports and the names of the victims to GMail.
But until now maybe around 10 people are really working like this
because people are not so aware of digital threats and how to mitigate
them. Apart from digital-rights defenders, it's most popular amongst
young people in bigger cities. Feminist groups are also working on
### What she likes
- She's really excited about the upcoming support for *VeraCrypt*.
Many people here are using *VeraCrypt* and it was a big limitation
when trying to convince them to use Tails.
Human-rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists are using *VeraCrypt*
a lot to protect information that can be sensitive for them or for
- She really likes cloning. If you have a USB stick, I can make you a
- She likes the persistent memory and finds it easy to use.
### What she dislikes
- She misses *Bitmask*.
*Bitmask* is sometimes faster than Tor and you don't get that many
"*Prove that you're not a robot*" that drive you crazy.
With *Bitmask* I can decide to always appear as coming from North
America whereas with Tor I always appear as coming from a different
country. Some websites, like Google, don't like that.
- She misses the ability to install additional software:
- Some people are used to their Windows applications and using it with
- Some specific audio and video applications.
- In recent versions, she had troubles cloning when running in Spanish.
- In recent versions, she had troubles using *Enigmail* with *Thunder*
and had to import her GPG keys manually every time.
Additional Software UX sprint, January 2018
We asked the participants what the one thing that they would change in
Tails if they had a magic wand:
- P1: Make the installation easier from Windows. They had problems once
creating the persistent storage.
- P2: Upgrades!
- P3: Make it easier to log into captive portals. They had to do this
once and it was super hard to figure out.
- P4: Allowing creating the persistent storage from Tails Greeter. And
- P7: Remove the need to configure the keyboard and language every time.
Claudia & Felix, January 2018
Claudia and Felix are reporters working in a journalists organization in
Latin America. They investigate and report on issues such as
human-rights violations, enforced disappearances, drug trafficking but
always with a focus on the social impacts.
Their organization has been collaborating with others on a shared
whistleblowing platform for some years.
Claudia has been designated by her organization to be the person in
charge of the whistleblowing platform. She has an OpenPGP key to
communicate with other organization on the platform but she only uses it
for that. Actually, right now it's expired.
Felix is a sociologist but he "likes machines" so people call him
whenever a computer issue pops up in the office as they don't have a
dedicated computer person.
Most journalists in their office use Mac but their administrative staff
### Whistleblowing platform
The whistleblowing platform was set up by a tech organization from
abroad. They gave each organization some training on the platform and a
dedicated laptop to access it only from Tails. The training was focused
on the platform, so they didn't receive a proper training on Tails
itself. In general, little technical support was provided after the
platform was installed.
Though the dedicated laptop seemed to be new, Tails takes 2-3 minutes to
start. Maybe it's because of the computer but they don't really know
because they didn't try it on another computer. All organizations
collaborating on the whistleblowing platform received the same machine
and some gave up on using it. They probably got the worse computer in
It was not clear to them whether it was safe against malware to start
Tails from their personal computer instead of the dedicated computer.
When working on leaked documents, they download them from Tails but do
the real work from their own computers.
The first year Tails worked very well. But then they started having more
problems when the upgrades started.
### They know they should do more for their digital security
Their organization is aware that the stories that they are investigating
require more digital security but they are struggling with switching to
new tools. It costs a lot to change people's habit, especially with
older journalists who are not going to change their investigation
Their administrative staff have their Windows encrypted using BitLocker
but the journalists on Mac are reluctant to encrypt their computer
because it would make them slower to start.
The organization is looking into switching their emails to a trusted
provider but they are not there yet. They tried to get people to switch
from GMail to Thunderbird but it was not adopted because people are
really used to GMail and found Thunderbird slow in comparison,
especially on bad Internet connections. So they tired to make people
use OpenPGP on GMail with Mailvelope but this failed as well.
The same happens with Signal, which is not as fast and reliable.
But they managed to get people to use Mumble, hosted by a trusted
provider, for their internal meetings.
In general, even after learning from the recent [malware infection of
It's very hard for people in Latin America to know whether they have
been infected because they lack local people who can do computer
forensics. How can you know whether you are being spied? Not to get
paralyzed, people stay blind to these issues and keep on doing their
work as usual.
### What they dislike
Several time, their Tails stopped working because of an upgrade. In
such cases they would get help from another organization collaborating
with the whistleblowing platform which has more technical staff. Right
now for example, their Tails has been broken since December and is
being fixed by them.
One of their Tails was so old that it was impossible to upgrade it.
Felix installed a new Tails and copied the cryptographic key to the
whistleblowing platform manually.
- Some months ago, they had troubles with their local keyboard
configuration that was not always applied.
- They once lost the configuration of their persistence and struggled
importing their keys back to the new persistence.
When configuring Tails, some options are shown but it's hard to
understand what they correspond to if you are not an expert.
- They have lots of trouble connecting to Tor. It can take up to 15
minutes and Felix tried on different networks (in the office and at
Joana & Orlando, January 2018
Joana and Orlando are investigative journalists and human-rights
defenders in Latin America. They work in an organization that
investigates and reports on private companies in Latin America, fighting
for transparency and accountability and denouncing human-right
violations of these companies, especially towards local communities.
They use Tails for online investigation: to gather data and visit the
websites of companies and governments. They don't redact or publish
their reports from Tails and only use it to gather intelligence.
As a policy of their organization, everybody uses Ubuntu; except Orlando
who prefers Debian. Some staff run Windows from virtual machines for
some applications. Another policy of their organization is to encrypt
all emails using OpenPGP.
Few organizations in Latin America are conscious and concerned about
digital security and it's still something very new. People started being
more cautious after learning about the [malware infections of
least some journalists but not really the human-rights organizations.
### Working between Tails and Ubuntu
They use Tails on the laptops provided by their organization. They
reboot into Tails to do their online work and switching is not a problem
from them. They use an additional USB stick to save the documents that
they want to share between Tails and their regular operating system.
They use MAT to clean the metadata on these documents but the USB sticks
are not encrypted. Since their Ubuntu is encrypted, they can't access it
### Working with local communities
They often collaborate with local communities affected by the companies
that they investigate. Joana and Orlando teach them about digital
security, how to communicate with them, and do research online by
themselves. Tails (and Tor) is what they recommend.
But for people in the communities, Tails seems very sophisticated, too
technical, only for spies, or too much paranoia. Joana and Orlando work
on these stereotypes and fears but it's challenging because they don't
have a technical background themselves. So Tails remains hard to adopt
for most people. The communities also have little money and this doesn't
help. Tails works better in the communities where they find a champion
who's more interested in digital security and more into computers.
### Applications they use to do their work
For their investigation and reporting, they use mostly LibreOffice,
[PSPP](http://savannah.gnu.org/projects/pspp) (statistical analysis
tool), [QGIS](https://qgis.org/) (geographic information system),
[Zotero](https://www.zotero.org/) (research sources organizer), GIMP,
They already have everything they need in Tails because they only use
Tails for online investigation and data gathering and analyse the data
on Ubuntu or Debian.
For their communication they use Jitsi and Mumble (hosted by a trusted
provider). They have Signal on their personal phones but people in the
communities all have WhatsApp.
They also have a Nextcloud hosted by a trusted provider.
### Data loss and backups
They don't have much in their persistence, mostly a copy of their
OpenPGP keys (that they also have on their laptops) and some
configuration. So it's not a big problem if they loose their persistence
and they don't back it up.
They used to have an internal backup server in their office but its
hardware broke some months ago and it hasn't been replaced yet. For the
time being, people usually back up their files from Ubuntu to external
### What they like
- Cloning is very useful when working with communities.
- Tails became easier to setup and configure. For example, now you can
install Tails from Ubuntu and Debian.
- They really like MAT and use it a lot. Metadata and MAT are also a
good example to explain why you need to protect your data, your files,
and communications. A big limitation is that MAT cannot clean PDF
files which is a format that they use a lot.
- They like that Tails connects automatically to Tor.
- Orlando likes that Tails is based on Debian because he's been using
Debian himself for a while.
- They really like having Thunderbird and a copy of their OpenPGP keys
in persistence. Before that they suffered a lot from not having access
to their encrypted emails when they didn't carry their work computers
with them. Now they can start Tails and access it anywhere, even on
- They like the manuals on the website, what is Tails, how it works,
etc. It's good to empower people who are new to Tails.
### What they dislike
- The verification to check that the ISO is genuine is still quite
complicated. Orlando managed to do it from the command line but without
really understanding. He also did it from the website and there it was
more automatic. He likes the command line instructions as it makes him
feel safer even if he only copies from the tutorial.
- Tails is complicated to start on newer computer which are much more
locked down by companies. One time, after trying Tails on the computer
of a colleague, it couldn't boot Windows anymore.
- Joana once had problems with upgrade on a USB stick. She could do the
first two upgrade but then it was not possible to do the third one.
- Some governmental websites cannot be accessed from Tor. Orlando
thought that the other browser (*Unsafe Browser*?) was added to Tails
to make this possible.
Mathias, December 2017
Mathias is a 25 years old video technician living in the north of france. He is also a punk hardcore singer, and is involved in several struggles
against the capitalist world.
He first used Tor, and didn't really get interested in Tails,
but he went to a discussion about Tails and then downloaded it
just to see how it was. He then realized that Tor was not enough
for his needs, that he needed an amnesic operating system.
He doesn't have much expertise with Tails, at first he had a
hard time understanding that it started from a usb stick and was
independant from the hard drive.
He has been using it to anonymously upload videos on youtube.
The videos were showing a group of skateboarders riding in the
city, wearing masks and sometimes spray painting on the walls.
They wanted their messages to be publicly viewable, while not
risking to be discovered by the police.
Tails also makes him want to do more illegal things :)
He likes that Tails is nomade, simple, and has a persistence support. But
at first he likes the facts that he can feel the presence of human beings
behind the project.
And he doesn't have bad things to say about Tails, because he is not doing
crazy things with it and doesn't know it enough.
Daan, December 2017
Daan is a 18 years old ICT (information and communications technology)
student and a security researcher. He lives in the Netherlands and
cares a lot about privacy.
He learned about Tails on the Tor website after he started using Tor.
He tried Tails, noticed that everything was routed through Tor by
default and liked it. He also immediately appreciated that
cryptography tools, such as OpenPGP encryption, are readily
accessible. The memory erasure on shutdown feature was another
Daan is a power-user who themed his Tails and uses additional software
packages. He uses Tails only when he feels it's needed and not daily,
for example when he feels like the government may target him because
he looks up specific information. He uses Tails for penetration
testing, sharing files privately with his friends, and occasionally
for software development.
Things he likes:
1. Memory erasure on shutdown.
2. Access to encryption tools (OpenPGP, KeePassX).
3. No data leaves the computer without going through Tor.
Things he dislikes:
1. He finds the applications menu hard to use (but he likes GNOME).
2. He would like to see [tcpcrypt](http://tcpcrypt.org/) integrated
3. He finds the Tails user interface glossy and thinks it should
4. He wants server functionality in Tails.
Charles, December 2017
Charles is 30 years old and lives in North America. He is a political
activist working on law reform at the state level. He cares about free
software and calls himself a "purist". He is part of an organization
that provides computers and cell phones with free software
(*libreboot*, *Replicant*) to people.
Around 2012, Bill Binney's revelations about the amount of spying done
by the US government shocked him and prompted him to re-evaluate his
decisions about how he kept control of his data & communication.
This made him start to use Tor and Tails.
Since three years, Charles uses Tails daily. He submits bug reports
and sends suggestions to the developers. He is a power-user at ease in
a terminal; he installs additional packages to adapt Tails to
his needs. He mainly uses Tails for IRC and XMPP chat, email, web
browsing, and SSH.
Things he likes:
1. He has a sense of trust in the people who work on the Tails
project, and particularly about the fact they will make decisions
that will be in his best interest.
2. Something he calls "usability": once the desired settings are in
place, every time he boots Tails it's fresh (but customized as
3. Tor is integrated system-wide by default, which avoids the need to
configure another OS to achieve this goal.
Things he dislike:
1. Tails lacks support for next-generation IM (e.g. OMEMO); he is
aware that this support might be available via Additional Software
Packages already, but he thinks it should be available by default.
2. Charles misses a really free software version of Tails (Linux Libre
kernel, no firmware).
3. Charles misses support for server-related features (XMPP server,
Media Goblin, Mumble).
Miguel, May 2017
Miguel is a 20 years old statistics student in Brazil. He is part of
a collective that works on online privacy and security.
In 2014 he was trying all the privacy tools he and his friends could
found, and then he started using Tails. Sometimes he doesn't use Tails
very often, and only as a way to use other people's computers: he
keeps his passwords is a KeePassX database, along with some personal
files and his Thunderbird configuration on the Tails persistent
volume. And sometimes he uses Tails more intensively, for example
when dealing with sensitive material. Miguel identifies himself as an
intermediate level Tails user, although he helps others use Tails and
does not need other people's help himself.
### What he likes
- the new Installation Assistant
- the amnesic property, that allows him to use other people's
- the fact that Internet connections are routed through Tor
- he finds Tails easy to use, e.g. the persistence setup
- the set of bundled software
### What he does not like
- GNOME is heavy on older computers
- the website translation workflow is hard
- he misses the ability to install Tails on the command-line with dd
(and was surprised when I told him it still worked)
Sophia, May 2017
Sophia is 30 years old, lives in Brazil and has two jobs: she is
a teacher and a system administrator.
In 2015, she was looking for an operating system that would be safer
than macOS, and discovered Tails. She had been using Linux for 2 years
already, but found it vastly easier to use Tails than to configure
software to use Tor on a regular Linux distribution. Since then, Tails
is her only OS and she uses it every day; she feels very comfortable
using it, although she has not tried everything.
### What she likes
- Tails is plug'n'play and it "just works"
- Tor Browser
### What she dislikes
- having to configure Tor Browser to match her security requirements
every time she starts Tails; she would like a persistent setting
for these settings
- Totem is buggy with some subtitles (buggy delay after pausing and
resuming), so she misses VLC
- she misses a set of LibreOffice Impress templates/themes that could
be installed by default
Isabella, May 2017
Isabella is a 50 years old Debian user living in Brazil. She used to
be a journalist at a magazine that talked a lot about FOSS (among
other things), then got in touch with people working on privacy
enhancing technologies (PET) and switched jobs: she now works with
a collective that defends freedom and privacy online, learns about
privacy tools and does advocacy for them.
She has been demonstrating Tails to people since 2 years: she finds it
easier to advocate for than Debian since it's easy to try (without
replacing one's current OS) and is pre-configured for privacy.
She started using Tails herself 3 months ago. She found it easy, and
doesn't need to ask for help anymore. She uses Tails about twice
a month, mainly to upload sensitive material and for web browsing.
### What she likes
- "the bundle", i.e. everything pre-configured shipped in a box
- She found Tails very didactic and liked how she could understand how
to use it.
### What she dislikes
- upgrades are painful when using Tails not so often
Bernardo, May 2017
Bernardo is a 37 years old public administration teacher and social
science researcher in Brazil. He studies the way social movements use
Internet communication tools. He discovered Tails after the Snowden
leaks, via a hackers collective and the homepage of the Tor website.
He uses Debian and GNOME (and has some basic knowledge of the command
line interface) so he felt comfortable using Tails, and found it easy
to get started with. He advocates using Tails and started using it
himself since the coup; he uses it about once a month, primarily to
release and distribute material against the government.
### What he likes
- everything is torified by default
- the amnesic property: everything goes away when turning off the
- Windows Camouflage (when it was there…)
### What he dislikes
- he had some trouble with the Unsafe Browser
Pedro, May 2017
Pedro is 23 years old and studies applied mathematics in college in
Brazil. He has been a Linux user since 11 years; Qubes OS is now his
main operating system.
He learned about Tails via the homepage of the Tor website before the
Snowden leaks, and got interested by the amnesic property of Tails.
He feels he knows his way around Tails and uses it once or twice
a week to browse hidden services websites and for encrypted chat
(that he finds easier to use on Tails than elsewhere).
### What he likes
- carrying a computer environment in his pocket
- easy to use, practical
- how the project cares about people and security
### What he dislikes
- GNOME is heavy and slow on old hardware
- the end of 32-bit support
- no more Windows Camouflage
Margarita, March 2017
Margarita is a digital security consultant in Latin America. She used to
develop autonomous communication infrastructures and is now focusing on
training human-right defenders and organizations in digital security.
She has been presenting Tails mostly to two different public:
- Family members of missing people. For example working on building
lists of missing people and DNA databases. People often disappear
while traveling on roads and, as a consequence, people are sometimes
refraining from moving. So it's a challenge to transmit information
from one place to another or to be able to travel without carrying
sensitive information. For example, someone wanted to train people on
how to build a list of missing people in a community and decided to
travel to the community without a computer and only use Tails there.
- Women sharing abortion techniques and resources. They are often women
who cannot turn to their families to ask questions and look for
solutions and otherwise go and ask Google.
Things she likes:
- In the case of documenting missing people, they find the learning
curve worth it.
- It's portable: you keep it in your pocket and you don't have to
install anything else.
Things she dislikes:
- Tails became harder to boot on newer computers.
- In the case of women sharing abortion techniques, the learning curve
made it harder to adopt.
Helen, March 2017
Helen is a digital security trainer working in an organization defending
the right for free speech in North America and working with both large
news organizations and freelance journalists.
She uses Tails for her work, especially since some of the news
organizations they work with use *SecureDrop* to exchange files and
communicate with sources. These news organizations have dedicate
machines running Tails as their primary OS. She also uses Tails for
personal use several times a week. For example she always has a Tails
USB stick when she travels and doesn't want to carry her own equipment.
It's lighter and for example she can use the computer in the lobby of
her hotel or plug her Tails on the big TV screen in her room.
Things she likes:
- She likes the feeling of security. Tails allows her to keep her
regular computer (Ubuntu, Debian, or Mac depending on the day) — the
one where she stores her most important data — clean from phishing.
Tails is good for surfing around, gossiping, etc. It feels like the
early experience she had on the Internet when she was younger which
was free from worries. She actually prefers Tails to *Tor Browser* for
that kind of browsing.
- She uses Tails a lot for note taking (*gedit*, *LibreOffice*).
- She like *KeePassX* and going on IRC over Tails.
Things she dislikes:
- She doesn't like *Icedove* so much and would prefer using *mutt*.
- She is frustrated not to be able to save a custom background in Tails.
She feels like Tails is one of her computer and she likes to customize
- She likes the automatic upgrades in general but she always have to go
back to the documentation when the upgrade fails. As part of her work,
she also sometimes sees infrequent users struggling with accumulated
upgrades (for example upgrading from 2.6 to 2.10).
- <strike>She finds the Installation Assistant inferiorating for expert users
like her when she only wants to download the ISO. But she recognizes
that it otherwise works really well for new users.</strike>
- She wants a minesweeper game in Tails.
- Once she had troubles debugging a firewall from Tails because the
router was not giving a DHCP lease and the *Unsafe Browser* wouldn't
start without one.
Ernesto, March 2017
Ernesto is working in the social science department of a University in
Latin America where he does communication, web development, and video.
He is also active in a local hacklab where he has a community TV and
does video editing with free software.
He uses Tails to be able to have a secure access to his personal data
from the work computer that he has at the University or when he wants to
Things he likes:
- Have a full OS on a USB stick is cool!
- All the connections go through Tor.
- Keeping his email configuration and encryption keys in the persistent
- Tails comes with everything you need already. It even has a video
- He liked meeting the developers in person and seeing that we share
similar ways of doing things. Now he wonders how he could help back.
Things he dislikes:
- The fact the upgrade mechanism is sometimes automatic and sometimes
manual. You never know what to expect.
- The new installation instructions are good for new users but he feels
a bit lost when looking for the command line instructions only.
Ray, March 2017
Ray is a security consultant and trainer in Africa.
From the 10 journalists that he trained in using Tails at the end of
2015, he knows of 2 who are still using it actively. They were the
people with higher risks. For example a blogger with high risks that
uses Tails as her regular operating system for her blogging activities,
for example while traveling, and be able to use shared computers.
Things he (and the people he trained) like:
- Tails has low hardware requirements and this is useful when traveling
to be able to use it anyway on the computers that are available.
- The persistent storage.
- MAC spoofing. Using MAC spoofing in a news room, one of the journalist
he trained realized how his activity on the network could be monitored
because the IT person, not seeing his computer as being up on the
network, came and checked if everything was ok.
- The Windows camouflage.
- Having a set of tools already installed in Tails makes it easy for
less technical people to get started.
Things he (and the people he trained) dislike:
- Tails doesn't work well on Chromebooks but these are picking up in
Africa because they are cheap.
- Tor often fails to connect on networks with low bandwidth.
- Looking for applications is hard for people who are use to their
proprietary equivalents (*Excel* is *Calc*, *Thunderbird* is
- After the training and the participants had to repeat the process of
installing Tails again, some failed to carry out this process on their
own and the one running on a Chromebook totally failed even during the
- Removing support for 32-bits computers will be problematic for them
because they often rely on old machines.
- When working with a low bandwidth or connecting through a captive
portal, after people started the Unsafe Browser, they tend to trust it
more than they should because it's running from Tails.
Adam, March 2017
Adam is an investigative journalist working in an organization raising
awareness around State surveillance and digital freedom in Western
Europe. He has been using lots of Tor in different environments for
As part of his work, he uses Tails both fully amnesiac and with
persistence. He has dedicated hardware for running Tails: a modified
ThinkPad X60 with many parts removed and only minimal input and output
He uses Tails to create, edit, and sanitize sensitive documents before
sharing them with other people or publishing them. He doesn't want to
open these documents on his regular operating system. Sometimes he
doesn't use Tails for 3 months and then use it everyday during 1-2 weeks
to work on a specific story.
He also shares his secure machine with other people by his side to
review or edit these sensitive documents instead of having to send these
documents online. All-in-all he uses little Tor from Tails and use it
more for data isolation.
Maybe Qubes OS does more than Tails against exploits but Tails is a
cheaper and more practical way for him to create a secure machine: it's
cheaper hardware and has an easier learning curve. He also feels better
having a hardware isolation instead of the virtual isolation provided by
Qubes OS. When he wants no network activity on his X60 he unplugs the
Ethernet cable and that's it.
Things he likes:
- He trusts Tails because he knows personally some of the developers;
the same could apply to Debian.
- Tails has been around for a while and is widely uses. It is well
connected to the rest of the Tor community and has received more
- He is used to Debian and feels comfortable hacking on the Debian base
of Tails when needed. He doesn't really know RPM and that's another
drawback of Qubes OS for him.
- He's happy to see *OnionShare* in Tails now.
Things he dislikes:
- His hardened X60 has a 32-bit processor and he won't be able to run
Tails 3.0 on it anymore.
- He finds it painful not to have the keyboard for his language listed
in the short list of keyboards in Tails Greeter.
- He had troubles trying to install additional packages in Tails and
instead reinstalled them every time. He wanted to use `scantailor`, a
post-processing tool for scanned pages, and `tesseract-ocr`, an
optical character recognition tool.
- He had troubles displaying local files in Tor Browser and thinks that
it's impossible to browser for anything under `file:///` in Tor
- <strike>He had a hard time finding a direct download with the new Installation
Assistant: *"I want a nerd link!"*</strike>
Alex, March 2017
Alex is a journalist working for a big news room in Western Europe.
She got an authorization from her network administrator to have two
machines at work: the official Windows machine from where she can access
the company's back office and her own machine running Debian and
They have a partnership with a whistleblowing platform and when working
on their documents they do everything from Tails.
Things she likes:
- The fact that Tails is all-in-one. For example, she sometimes sets up
a Tails USB stick for a few colleagues in the "war room" while working
a sensitive paper and they have all they need to review and edit
documents or do some additional research.
- Qubes OS is a nice idea but Tails remains more straight-forward and
you can use it immediately. You can clone a new key for someone and
that's all they need.
- Tails Installer in Debian! For example it's super useful to manually
upgrade a relatively old version or to install a new USB stick for
someone without having to restart on Tails.
- The installation documentation is much better now.
Things she dislikes:
- She misses a screen locker. For example, to have a break during long
working sessions while working on sensitive documents.
- GMail doesn't work with Icedove and TorBirdy. So you have to switch to
the Unsafe Browser to connect to GMail.
Jeanne, February 2017
Jeanne has been working as an independent journalist for 5-6 years in Western Europe. She
writes stories that she sells to many different newspapers. She is also
active in a not-for-profit resource center and coworking space for
independent journalists in her city where she advocates for privacy to
the local press. She runs Ubuntu on her PC and can handle it all-right
with some help from her geek friends.
She started using Tails about one year ago, helped out by a local
privacy and free software advocate from which she cloned a USB stick.
One of her colleague got his computer seized and she realized that
having at least her hard disk encrypted was a way of guaranteeing her
rights to privacy as a journalists in front of the police. Some of her
sources were also scared of being monitored and explicitly asked for
security protocols. She decided to get herself trained in privacy tools
to be able to "lead the dance" and propose reasonable protocols
to sources in the future herself.
She uses Tails occasionally when the story or the source requires it.
She is not using Tails outside of her work.
Things she likes:
- Tails comes as a package of privacy tools with no need to configure
things manually. She had bad experiences and misconfigured some
privacy tools on her computer in the past. Tails is like a "paranoid
mode" by default.
- She hopes that she could could do better at segmenting her time and
use Tails to help her focus on a specific task.
Things she dislikes:
- The terminology around "persistence" was difficult to understand. She
talks about "storage area" ("zone de stockage" in French).
- She had trouble learning how to start Tails from her PC.
- She finds it very hard to combine the use of Tails with the heavy
multitasking implied by her work: during a single day she works in
parallel on many different stories with many different clients and
sources. She runs on a very short budget and cannot afford having a
second computer dedicated to Tails.
- Once, she had troubles opening her persistence because the keyboard
layout was different than when she configured it.
- Once, she lost the draft of a story because she had no persistence.
- Once, she tried to use Tails for communicating with a source but
failed in doing so.
- When getting started she found the documentation on the desktop hard
to apprehend because it was using too technical terms (like "ISO").
She thinks that the documentation should be more accessible to less
technical people as a pedagogical tool: since she is making the effort
to getting into Tails, she is ready to read and learn.