De-Googling is really hard

Entry categories ConceptsUsability
Vintage European style key engraving from Six Semaines de vacances by Paul Poiré (1880). Original from the British Library. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

The longer I’m on the internet, the more companies I see misusing customer data, censoring content, and violating privacy. Censoring non-illegal content (whether you agree with it or not) and spying on US citizens through dark-pattern UX legalese strikes me as anti-American. It’s pretty concerning how much of the internet these companies control; its downright scary if they aren’t acting in its user’s best interests.

In light of that, I started a de-Googling challenge a month or so back, as they were my biggest super-company I was using. Here were some of my guidelines for this challenge.

 

Web services

I took action on the following web services.

  • Chrome – Just use Firefox. Its not quite as good as Chrome, but its very close. If  you must, Brave is good too, but they were recently hit with changing affiliate links on Amazon items, so… maybe not.
  • Ad-block, privacy protectionuBlock Origin is a must. Both Chrome & Firefox have this extension.
  • Google.com – Switched to Startpage.com. DuckDuckGo was my previous engine, but its results just aren’t as good.
  • Password manager – KeePass (KeeWeb specifically, because it actually looks nice)
  • Gmail – Switched to my personal email server and a tool that works cross-platform called Missive, a very pleasant surprise, even better than Gmail! For heavy lifting on desktop I use Mozilla’s Thunderbird.
  • Google Maps – Using an extension called Privacy redirect, it auto-redirects Google Maps to Open Street Maps. I’m not really a huge fan of Open Street Maps, and will use something like Mapquest if I must.
  • Google Calendar – Using my server’s CalDav now, with its built in calendar. I unfortunately still have a family calendar on Google Calendar.
  • YouTube – Using an extension called Privacy redirect again here which opens the link instead in Invidio.us, a de-Googled YouTube clone. For subscriptions, YouTube uses RSS, which I plug into my feed reader.
  • Google Drive / Docs – Local files in my personal cloud share that syncs to desktop and mobile.

 

Mobile

And on my personal mobile device, I did the following…

  • Android – The real problem about Android is that the OS itself has unblock-able requests to Google all the time. I’m waiting for Lineage OS to support my device officially.
  • Ad-block, privacy protectionNetGuard can be used as a traffic logger & controller, additionally blocking requests to Google in all your non-OS apps
  • Google Fi – Went back to a different provider.
  • Google Play – A combo of F-Droid and Aurora Store.
  • Camera, Calendar, Clock, Contacts, PhoneSimple Mobile Tools (found in F-Droid) are really quite excellent alternatives to Google’s stock apps. I did have a few issues with the Camera one however.
  • Google KeyboardOpenBoard, but doesn’t have swipe 🙁
  • YouTube appNewPipe
  • Google KeepNextcloud Notes

 

This was way harder to do than I hoped, and I don’t feel like I’ve done all I needed to yet. It also seems to me that for less tech-saavy Americans, this process is completely impossible.

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