What’s wrong with Google?
First of all it’s not just Google, there’s plenty of other massive corporations out there doing the exact same thing (Microsoft and Apple to name just two). They offer some great services but you have you ask yourself, “am I happy to give up my privacy for the sake of making my digital life a little easier?”
If you don’t appreciate companies like these snooping on your activities then you’re definitely going to want to ditch them. When we agree to their terms and conditions, we’re essentially signing our life away and saying they’re free to know every little detail about us. From tracking your location via GPS to finding out your interests based on emails and web history, it’s not an exaggeration to say Google knows far more about you than you do yourself!
You’ve been suggesting I use Android, isn’t that a Google product?!
It’s true the majority of Android phones are based around the whole Google eco-system. The Android operating system isn’t owned by Google though, they just use that system for their phones & tablets as do Samsung, Amazon etc. The Android OS is actually a very ethical idea and is open for anyone to use, however the vast majority of phones will be setup with the intention of you signing into your Google account.
There are some great benefits of signing into a Google account, most notably all your contacts, emails, photos and accounts that are automatically backed up and can be synchronised across multiple devices. It is possible to completely de-google your phone but unless you’re tech-savvy and don’t mind losing certain functionality, it’s most likely not for you. If you’d like to know more, there’s a great article on how to completely de-google your life here.
What’s the easiest solution to de-google?
You probably don’t want to fully ditch Google, if you do then kudos to you but you need to realise what you’d be giving up on. It’s not just the Google apps such as Gmail, Photos, GDrive, Maps, etc. but many of the best Android apps rely on “Google Services”. If you enjoy playing games on your phone, you’ll more than likely need to retain some of the Google apps and services pre-installed on your phone. This doesn’t mean your stuck with Google though, there’s some simple things you can do…
1. (Browser/Search Engine) Use DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo is a search engine but they also have their own app for web browsing, it’s a Google alternative and they pride themselves on privacy, they don’t track you or share your information with advertisers.
If you’re using Tor Browser then it’s recommended to set your homepage to the duckduckgo “.onion” address (https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion). If you don’t use Tor, sorry that will sound very confusing! Onion addresses are one of the benefits you get with using Tor Browser, these are links you can only open in Tor, even your internet provider is unable to see what you’re searching for!
If you aren’t keen on using Tor Browser and you’re using a different browser such as Chrome, Safari or Firefox, it’s recommended to install the DuckDuckGo Browser. It works very similar to Chrome and you can install it from the official App Store and Play Store. Once installed, use that for all your web browsing needs.
2. (Email) Use ProtonMail or similar
Rather than using your Google or Apple email accounts, consider using one of the other alternatives out there which offer encrypted email. As mentioned in the email section, you’ll want to setup a new email account anyway so why not setup two new ones? You can have one for your personal day to day email and use the other just for registering social media accounts. ProtonMail and Tutanota are both great options and offer free plans.
The biggest drawback of using an alternative email service is that your contacts won’t be synchronised. You can import your existing Gmail contacts into your new email account fine, you can also import them into your phone’s phonebook, but unfortunately any contacts you add in future won’t be synchronised. What this means is, if you add a new contact to your phone, it won’t automatically be backed up in your email account like you get with Gmail so if you lose your phone you’ll also lose that contact. Of course you can always go into your email account and manually add the new contact in there, it’s an annoying extra step but it’s definitely recommended as nobody likes to lose their contact numbers!
If you “activated” your phone by creating a new Gmail account when prompted rather than using an existing one, you could still use all your favourite apps but Google wouldn’t have access to your emails or browsing history. There are more steps you can take but these are probably the simplest and most effective measures to start with, for more information visit the forum.