Following my “A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to iPhone Privacy and Security” article, I’ve decided to write another quick guide. This time is a quick guide on how to eliminate ( as much as possible ) Google from your life.
Yes, there is life after Google. You might not imagine yourself not using Google as a search engine, but guess what? You can do better. And no, not necessarily DuckDuckGo as the image above suggests.
You might ask yourself why would anyone want to stop using Google products and services. Well besides the fact that they track, analyze and store your entire life there’s a few other reasons. Read here.
Basically, when you use anything made by Google you think that you’re the customer and that’s the product while Google thinks you’re the product. It’s a vicious circle and you need to break free. Sooner rather than later.
Before we get started, you need to understand that you don’t have to quit Google cold turkey. It’s a process, that will take you some time. Some services are harder to get rid of than others. Just understand why you need to do this and understand that there’s always a better alternative. Don’t blindly follow popular trends.
1. Google Search
This is probably the easiest Google service that you can stop using right away. This might come as a shock to most since searching something, anything on the web is always referred to as “Google”, but it can be done.
For most people the most obvious choice of a Google Search replacement ( besides Bing or Yahoo ) is DuckDuckGo. But there are others you might want to give a try.
StartPage – uses Google’s search results directly and applies layers of encryption and anonymity on top of them. There’s even a Safari extension that will allow you to use StartPage search from the omnibar.
NOTE: currently Safari only allows you to set your default search engine to Google, Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.
Other search engines: searX
Give these alternative search engines a try. Play around, get familiar with their basics and give each of them a test run. See what they return and see how each one compares with Google. Choose the one that suits your needs the best.
2. Google Chrome
Here’s another G-product you can easily get rid of: Google Chrome. While it wouldn’t hurt to use different browsers for different sites, this could easily start to impact your productivity and the point here is to find alternatives that will make your transition as smooth as possible.
Most Mac users will probably skip this one because they’re using Safari. Because, you know, it integrates so well into the whole Apple ecosystem. Not so fast. You might want to take a look at Brave. They even have an iOS and Android app. And when you pair the iOS app with a password manager like Bitwarden you won’t really feel like you’re missing something from stepping outside the Apple ecosystem. If only Apple would allow us to set a 3rd party browser as default on iOS.
I would still recommend using Firefox on your Mac. And stick with Safari on iOS.
3. Gmail, Calendar, Contacts
Moving away from Gmail is not hard at all, but it will take the longest time. First you need to inform everybody ( important people like family and business contacts not newsletters obviously ) that you no longer use your gmail address. And then you will need to monitor your gmail address for ( maybe ) months to see if you didn’t miss anything when you transferred to the new account.
There’s a lot of email services out there so feel free to do your own research and choose the one that suits your needs. I’ll give you a few example that are privacy-oriented and offer web and iOS and/or Android support.
- ProtonMail ( Free and Paid options, based in Switzerland )
- Tutanota ( Free and Paid options, based in Germany )
- Mailfence ( based in Belgium. They do not take new registrations at the moment )
- FastMail ( paid, based in Australia )
UPDATE FreeTube: An Open Source YouTube Player Built for Privacy
Realistically, there’s not much you can do when it comes to YouTube. Not right now at least. There are other options out there but when it comes to content, YouTube rules them all.
You can kind of use HookTube , a service that allows you to watch YouTube videos without giving them views, bypass country blocks and age restrictions and even download the videos. But it’s not elegant by any means, and not giving YouTube videos any views will hurt the creators.
For now, honestly, there’s not much you can do about it. Luckily, nothing lasts forever so sooner or later YouTube will be a thing of the past. And with the recent video demonetization and video suppression that’s going on these days, it might happen sooner than expected.
5. Google Maps
This is another hard one to get rid of. Just like with YouTube, Google dominates when it comes to maps apps. You might want to try OpenStreetMaps and search for iOS/Android apps based on OSM. if you want to improve OSM for your area check out this page.
For iOS and Android you might want to check maps.me
6. Google Drive
This one is easy. Use it. Woahhh not so fast. You can use any cloud storage you want as long as you encrypt your sensitive data. Don’t upload anything sensitive to the cloud, ANY cloud storage, without encrypting first.
Alternatively, you can use a cloud service that offers end-to-end encryption like SpiderOak. Or set up your own cloud with Nextcloud. You can also check out Resilio Sync.
However, please stop auto-uploading/backing up your photos and videos to the cloud, especially a cloud owned by Google.
7. Google Docs
If you’re on a Mac/iPhone/iPad you can easily use iWork ( pages, numbers, keynote ). You can also use NextCloud with Etherpad add-on, or take a look at Sandstorm.
There’s a lot of options available. You just have to find the one that suits your needs. One thing to always remember is to never trust the cloud with your sensitive files. Encrypt!
8. Google Translate
I don’t think this is a major issue for most people. If you’re trying to learn a new language with Google Translate, you’re doing it wrong. If you want to translate just a few words or a sentence you might want to try Babelfish or DeepL Translator. If you want to translate a website, than you’ll probably want to use Google Translate. Maybe use Tor when you do it?
9. Google Allo/Hangouts/Duo
If you’re on iOS I don’t even know why you’d use any of these apps. “Because not everybody is on iOS.” So what?
Instead of using these apps use Signal. Or Zoom and appear.in. You want more options? Take a look at Riot, Jitsi or Retroshare. ( Notice I didn’t mention WhatsApp? Read the privacy guide )
I’m not sure who uses Blogger anymore but I’m sure people still do.There’s are plenty of alternatives here. The most obvious alternative is WordPress. If you’re not into casual blogging and for some reason you don’t want to use WordPress, you might want to take a look at Ghost.
We pretty much covered all the major Google-owned products and services. As you can see there’s plenty of alternatives. There’s no reason to stick with Google. All you have to do is shake it off and step out of your comfort zone.