Reducing Google services from my life

privacy Nov 9, 2021

We have all heard about how google tracks people, and how we all say that we value our privacy and all but in the end, most people don’t take any action regarding it and continue to use its services, products, and all normally because most people think it is a hassle to switch services as all are already so intertwined with our life. We don’t have to remember our passwords because we save all our passwords on chrome, we can easily back up our photos on google photos, the calendar app helps us remind our meetings with ease and so all.

Now I understand it is not possible to completely remove all the google services from our lives (especially for Android users), some services are essential depending upon person to person. You cannot just delete your Gmail account and switch to an alternative, google’s data collection is also the reason due to which we can enjoy the services for free yet certain steps can be taken to reduce our dependency on Google, we all were aware of how dependent we are dependent on it when it went down on 14th December 2020. Complete dependency on anyone’s service is not something I am a fan of, no matter even if the company is Google which has some of the world’s best engineers and machines running its server.

I am not saying to stop using all google products (that is not possible), but we surely can reduce our dependency on it, and be aware of the alternatives which can help us. Most of the products which I shall mention shall be open-source services which shall be privacy focussed and the free-tiers are enough for the majority of the users

Browser, Search-engine: Brave, DuckDuckGo

Most of my friends and family members know that ever since I got my smartphone (which was in 1st year in college), I have been using brave browser for almost all my searches, and as I had never saved any passwords on my google account before I hardly faced any issues switching to it. Brave is an open-source software created by Brendan Eich: creator of Javascript language and co-founder of Mozilla foundation. Now I am aware there was a controversy regarding brave adding affiliate links of binance in autocomplete but as I had not used its BAT tokens I was unaffected by it. It gives me an amazing experience blocking scripts and tracking from websites. Now I do understand that the same can be done using ublock and other extensions but as this was a free alternative to chrome I started using it and now it is my default browser on all my devices. You can start using t

Regarding search engines it gets a bit tricky, yes Google does show personalized results, and using DuckDuckGo gives organic results which in most cases gives me the result I am looking for but sometimes the results of google are far better. To counter this I have added my default search engine like DuckDuckGo, but if I ever want a search of google, I open the incognito mode and search for the answer. In this way the tracking of what Google does of my account is minimum.

Email: ProtonMail

We all love our Gmail accounts and it provides a fast and convenient way to log in to many of the websites and it is something that cannot be completely removed from our lives. Yet one should have email accounts in other email providers if and ever google goes down. I personally use protonmail and trust it enough that my apple id is linked not to my google account but my proton mail account. It is open-source and all though the free plan comes with some restrictions, it shall be enough for sending mails.

Video: Youtube Vance and NewPipe

People who are aware of them might not completely agree with using this app, but this is an alternative that I use. Both of these applications are open source and allow you to watch videos on youtube without any ads. The difference between Newpipe and Youtube Vance can be found here. The main difference is that in Youtube Vance you can log in via google using microg if you wish to subscribe, like, and comment on videos but I prefer not to do that. In Newpipe you can subscribe to the channel and it shall show videos only of those channels which in Youtube Vance you get recommendations based on your watching whether you log in via microg or not.

For Storage: Research

For storage, there is of course google which does give 15GB of free cloud storage but the storage does not have zero-knowledge encryption. Now the reason I would not mention any particular service is that each service has some advantages and disadvantages, like the pricing, the security provided, the free storage options. etc and it makes sense for a person to choose after all the considerations.

Others:

Now there are certain things like Google Maps, Google photos of which alternatives there are but it makes no sense to download them as you would get a worse experience. We do have to understand that there are certain services of google which are so good that if we would change them, we would add inconvenience to our lives, also these are such services that even if we did not have for a few hours it would not hamper our productivity by a huge amount.

Final Thoughts

Also, it is important to note that you should regularly check the data and privacy options of your google account and turn of personalized ads, clearing your web activity, deleting your history, etc. I shall be making a separate post of how that can be achieved and publishing it soon.

I do understand that this data collecting and all is what enables us to enjoy many of the so-called “free stuff” like social media networks, Gmail, maps, etc but again as an individual, I would prefer not to share those data if I can find better alternatives preferably which are open source or pay a bit extra for something I know is worth it and helps keep my data secure.

Privacy is something which often big tech companies take for granted and people although they claim that they value their privacy don’t take any steps for it and really don’t take any steps for it, and as people are not interested government often doesn’t make any laws regarding it. In this regard I do have respect for the European Union which have strong privacy laws to help protect the right of individuals, in the end, it depends on an. individual whether they want to complain about the tech companies about their privacy policy but do not take any actions, or switch to alternatives which may cause a slight inconvenience for a short time. At a global level asking the governments for strong privacy laws is something that needs to be done, but until that is achieved, we can work at an individual level.

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