Ungoogled (by TM O’Leary)
Ever get sick of “Big Brother”? As in the biggest of brothers? Bigger than the United States government, itself? Ever wonder what it would be like to go off of Google services and be 100% independent of the Silicon Valley juggernaut that reads your e-mails, reads your calendar, sees your search history, and then uses that information for their own financial gain? Want to be independent? Want to be free? Then read on...
Google has created a Web of it’s own by the sheer magnitude of it’s online services. It’s own “ecosystem” that locks you in and makes your life Hell if you try to abandon their product(s). This is why they created so many different services instead of just, say, search. They are expecting you to not change your habits. They are expecting you to just “keep it the same”. Once someone makes an agreement with themself that they will do whatever is necessary to abandon that ecosystem, literally nothing can stop you. This article is to help you break free of the ball & chain of Google, find alternative apps and services to use that are open source, often times higher quality, and often times free.
Let’s Start With The Basics
If you are using an Android phone right now; DON’T! There are other operating systems (OS’s) that offer similar or better features that can be either installed on a phone that was once Android, or you can buy into an entirely different OS altogether with Apple’s iPhone (iOS). For the former, there is Lineage OS and Oxygen OS (amongst others), and for the latter, there is iPhone’s iOS which comes with no Google services pre-installed on the device. Apple offers it’s own alternatives to what Google has to offer in almost everything except search (we will get to that later).
You are also going to want to avoid Chrome OS (Google’s operating system for laptops and desktops). A safe alternative would be to buy either a Windows 10 PC, Mac/MacBook of some type, or any standard desktop and run a distribution of Linux (a Free and Open Source operating system) on it. You can even remove Chrome OS from a Chromebook and run Linux from it exclusively in some cases.
Apps And Services
Let’s run down a handful of what Google offers in terms of applications for both Android and the Web shall we?
- Google.com (search)
- Google Chrome
- Chrome OS
- Google Drive
- Google Photos
- Google Maps
- Google Calendar
The list goes on.
So instead of throwing your Android phone out the window, let’s break down some of their major apps and services and I will offer viable alternatives for each one and tips on how I abandoned them.
The grand daddy (depending on who you ask). Google Search has been around since the 1990s and it is what the company built it’s (now somewhat faltering) reputation on. More than adequate alternatives exist that are much more user-friendly, privacy-centric, won’t track what you do online, won’t sell you ads, and are, of course, free.
Some of these examples are:
TIP: When I was trying to go off of Google Search, I was convinced that DuckDuckGo was giving me inferior results every time I typed a query. But then I realized that this was the old “search engine wars mentality” that I still carried with me from all the hype around Google vs. Yahoo vs. everyone else from back in the 1990s. DuckDuckGo and StartPage offer fantastic results, and the peace of mind you will get from it will be worth it, 100% of the time. _______________
An incognito, anonymous, or private search engine is only worth so much when you are conducting said search within a Web browser (Chrome) that has the company’s founders pocketbooks in mind when you are typing your query. You are better off using a privacy-first Web browser to surf the Web.
Some of these examples are:
- Firefox Focus
TIP: Convenience, convenience, convenience. This is the #1 thing I hear from people when I ask them to give up Chrome or Safari or Microsoft Edge. Just remember that you are in fact paying (trading) your privacy and safety for these conveniences. Need a log-in? Type it in the box! Need a password? Make it count and do not store it in your Web browser in exchange for one-click convenience. Password managers are also your friend.
The other grand daddy. Many people rely on Gmail for the majority of their online communication day in and day out. If there was ever a lynchpin that kept people from switching from Google services, this would be it. But there are much safer, more intuitive, more beautiful options out there, some of which are even end-to-end encrypted.
Some of these are:
- Thunderbird (if you set up your own server)
TIP: I once called a friend to tell him that I was no longer using the Gmail account that I had been using for six years, and there was an actual moment of silence of shock and disbelief on his end of the line because he couldn’t fathom someone going off Google’s e-mail services. I made the switch to ProtonMail, let everyone know and updated my online profiles, and BAM! DONE!
Cloud computing is huge. Everyone who wants to save money on local storage space will end up either using a cloud storage service of some type, or just flat out deleting files to save room. An easy option for most people is to opt-in to the 15GB of storage that Google gives to people for having a Google account, and it is yet again, another feather in the cap for Google to hook you into their ecosystem, and another link in your dependency chain on their services. Don’t fall for it!
Other options for cloud storage are:
- iCloud (for Mac and iOS)
- Local storage
TIP: A chill ran down my spine when I thought I was going to have to give up the convenience of “all my files, anywhere” when I started to remove things off of Google Drive. But then I read about the pCloud app and just uploaded all my files onto there, and it was as if I were never on Google Drive to begin with. Simple stuff.
The extent to which Google will go to harvest your data and keep your eyeballs on it’s services is staggering. This list is here for those who need to break “The Big Four” and to encourage those who feel powerless when logging onto their computers and handing over credentials to a Goliath every time they want to surf the Web. This is the tip of the iceberg though. Probably 5% of what all Google offers to keep you hooked, keep you dependent, and keep you coming back. It’s up to you, the individual, to regain control of your online presence, stop bartering off your privacy for convenience, and be self-reliable and safe with the data you put onto the Web.
... README v.1.0