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De-Googling your Life

Rom Feria

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I remember writing about freeing your Android smartphone from Google’s surveillance not too long ago. So today, I am writing about going to the next level, completely avoiding Google. Some will say that this is impossible, but frankly, it is not — it is just difficult.

So let’s start.

Remove Google Search

This is the easiest thing to do. Do not use Google Search! In my case, I prefer using DuckDuckGo.com, but there are others like Qwant.com, and Startpage.com.

On your web browser, look for the settings or preferences, and change the default search engine. Safari on iOS and OS X has Google as default search engine (yeah, Apple should actually walk-their-talk and remove Google as default), so you need to replace it.

Remove Chrome

Chrome is the number 1 browser in terms of market share today. It is also one of Google’s data collection tools. To de-google, stop using Chrome, or delete it from your device, if you can.

There are websites and plug-ins that are optimized for Chrome, unfortunately. If you don’t have a choice, use the Brave.com browser, which is based on the open-source project Chromium.

In my case, I use Safari, Firefox and the Onion browser.

Remove Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive etc.

Google App Suite is one of the popular productivity software today. This is quite tricky to wean away from. However, in my case, I use Apple’s iWork productivity suite, along with Quip.com, and Overleaf.com/ShareLaTeX.com, and LibreOffice.

As for Google Drive, you can use NextCloud.com, either you host it, or subscribe to a hosting service. You can try it out at https://disroot.org for a free account, but with limited space.

Remove Google Photos

I was never a fan of Google Photos. I use iCloud, Flickr.com and Textile.Photos. Whilst my options are not entirely free (apart from Textile.Photos), I have the peace of mind that my photos are not being mined, i.e., used to train Google’s machine learning.

Remove Google Hangouts

If you are one of the few who actually use Google Hangouts, you can ditch it in favor of Wire.com and Signal.org.

Remove Google Groups

A lot of online communities also depend on mailing lists or discussion boards, and Google Groups is one of the most popular. You can use the open source, Discourse.org, to replace Google Groups. Similar to NextCloud.com mentioned above, you can try out Discourse on Disroot.org.

Change YouTube Viewing

Now until the likes of Vimeo.com can get to the scale of YouTube’s hourly video uploads, you have no choice but to use YouTube. If you are a content creator, stop uploading your video to YouTube, instead use other services, like Vimeo.com.

Viewing videos on YouTube, however, can be difficult to avoid. Instead, try to download the video and watch it offline. This minimizes Google’s trackers, and at the same time, frees you from those ridiculous recommended videos.

Remove Gmail

Google’s Gmail is probably the most difficult to remove from your life. The alternative is to stop using it (don’t delete your account) by getting an e-mail account from Protonmail.com or TutaNota.com, or paying for your own hosted-email services.

After you have secured your e-mail, you will need to change all online accounts that use your GMail address. This is the most tedious step. After you have done this, make sure that you forward e-mail from your Gmail to your new e-mail, and set it to automatically delete.

Now the most difficult part, refrain from sending email to *any* GMail address. If you don’t have a choice, encrypt the e-mail (Protonmail.com and TutaNota.com can make this simple) before sending it — so Google’s machine learning won’t be able to scan the content (mind you, your e-mail address won’t be encrypted) to train their “suggested replies” AI. However, if the recipient copies the plain-text, and quotes it, then that will defeat the purpose.

Don’t use Android

If you have an option, get yourself an iPhone or an iPad, to avoid having an entire operating system used to track you. Take note, Apple also tracks you, but their revenue is not based on these information, unlike Google.

If you prefer having a non-Apple device, I suggest that you de-Google your Android, too. See my previous article mentioned above.

Remove Trackers

Now that you have limited your exposure to Google’s products, the only thing left is to remove yourself from trackers. Google’s trackers appear almost everywhere on the web, and in most mobile applications. Whilst you can easily block their trackers by using browser plug-ins, it will not be able to block those embedded in your mobile applications.

To block those wholesale (from any application or website), I block them on the network using Pi-hole.net, a small application that runs on a Raspberry Pi. When I am away from my home network, I either use a VPN that has ad tracker blocking features, or I VPN back to my home network.

Spread the word

Once you have done this and become comfortable with your online behavior, it is best that you spread the word. Get your family and friends off of Google, too. It is not an easy journey, but it is the only way to be safe online.

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