Google search, Gmail, Android, Chrome — it is almost impossible to imagine life today without Google’s products. Every day we use products by the Mountain View company for hours without even being aware of it. Why I try to reduce my Google usage, here:
It all started with the Google Assistant
Until some time ago I was a Google fan. I wanted to use all products, try each service as one of the beta testers. Google Inbox, Google Fit, I loved to be one of the first to try out such novelties. Google Inbox has intelligently sorted all my emails and Google Fit has counted all my burned calories. Google Now was also one of my favorites with the suggestions at the right time.
But to be able to use many of the Google products, you are forced to activate any kind of history. Search history, location history, audio history, everything. A lot of things where it is not even understandable what you actually need it for.
First I played this game. I have readily provided all my data to use these great products. I was in the belief that by giving out my data, I would help Google to adapt the products to my needs and improve them.
But at some point my rationality came back. Do you realize what you’re doing? You are not the one who is in charge of everything, just so that you have a simpler life! Google is not a charity that wants to make people happy selflessly!
But what my common sense triggered was not my sense of privacy (because then I would never have even started to rely on Google like that), it was the high data consumption of my smartphone. I had an extremely limited data contract with just 100 MB per month and I no longer wanted them to be used up after 2 or 3 days. So I went looking for the culprit and found out that Google Play Services use a lot of data. I have tried all possible settings and finally found that if I deactivate all the history settings, my data usage is the least.
Then came the Google Assistant…
Because in order to be able to reactivate all these processes, it is necessary to reactivate them and I just didn’t feel like it. I was able to avoid the assistant, as I found out after a short time of trying it out because of my curiosity.
Google products I’ve replaced ✔️
In order to avoid this data octopus as far as possible, I have replaced some Google services with competing products. These are partly paid, but then I can also make sure that I am not the product due to my data, but the customer.
The reason for this article is what I did today. I have replaced my complicated but working setup of email server and Gmail with Fastmail. Gmail actually did everything I needed, but as with almost all products, you pay with your privacy. Emails are scanned, not only to filter out spam but also to personalize advertising. However, if I pay for an email provider, I can rely on him to use my fee to operate his service and not the advertising revenue. Last but not least, the extremely positive feedback from Fastmail and the convincing web interface also made me switch.
Google’s password synchronization
A few weeks ago I switched from the Password Synchronization built into Chrome to LastPass. Not only does the same reason for the price justification apply here, but I also find the other features such as generating a secure password and the security scan very useful. After the change and a frighteningly low security value, I changed almost all my passwords, to use a different one with the consideration that I don’t have to remember them by heart anymore. Also, many unused accounts on services that are no longer in my use have been deleted. And last but not least, thanks to the add-ons for all common browsers, I am now much more free and flexible in the choice of the program, which I use most often on my PC.
Google Chrome is actually a good browser. Fast, flexible and available on all platforms. But by Google and you are almost forced to log in with your account to synchronize the browser history etc. so that Google knows where else you are on the internet. I’m not quite finished with my migration process yet, as I’m still waiting for the upcoming Firefox update to switch from Chrome to Firefox on my smartphone and laptops. I have already done this on my PC and am writing the current article in Firefox. 😉
Google Chrome’s Sync
Switching from Chrome to Firefox offers me the possibility to switch from Chrome’s synchronization to Mozilla’s alternative. Unlike Google, Mozilla is a non-profit organization and I prefer to share my bookmarks, settings and a list of installed add-ons with them instead of Google. Of course, it would also work completely without automatic synchronization, but that would be too much work for the little bit more privacy that I would get as a result.
Google Contacts has been my favorite solution to sync and manage contacts across devices. If I had to reset my mobile phone again, there was no fear that I had lost all the numbers of my contacts. However, since FastMail also offers this function in addition to the email service, I prefer to use it in the future. I can easily synchronize contacts via CardDav and DavDroid (alternative free download via F-Droid) to my mobile phone and edit them in the web interface or the Contacts app.
The same as for Google Contacts also applies to Google Calendar. FastMail offers a full calendar including synchronization via CalDav, which is also possible via DavDroid.
Google Keep can’t be completely replaced by FastMail for me. Although FastMail offers a notes feature and these notes are also available via IMAP in any email client and the app supports them, I have installed the Google Keep App on my phone, but with the synchronization disabled. Why? Because the FastMail app for Android doesn’t offer offline support yet and is more or less just a web wrapper with some extra features like push messages. Actually, I could use any other random notes app, but due to the disabled synchronization, my notes don’t end up in the Google cloud and the app for Android is still the one that I think is best for the platform.
I have never been embarrassed to use Google Tasks. Simply because the design of the interface makes me almost sick, because it just isn’t up to date anymore. The range of functions is also not exactly appealing.
As an alternative, I have been using the premium version of Todoist for some time now. Todoist simply offers all the features you would expect from a to-do app. I even use Todoist to remember appointments that are then synchronized with my calendar. The price is also very attractive in my opinion.
Last but not least, the Google product that we all use the most: Google search. The Google search is the secret cash cow of Google. Google makes billions of dollars a year by displaying ads between search results. Advertisements that are personalized by our behavior. Google not only analyzes emails, but also your search and browser history.
As an alternative, I’m betting on DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is not tracking and the search results are also acceptable. To my knowledge DuckDuckGo uses the indexes of Google and Microsoft.
Google Products I cannot replace (yet) ✖️
However, I can’t do without all Google products.
Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. In addition, it is open source and can be used free of charge. However, Google often forces device manufacturers to pre-install a number of other Google Apps if they want to use the Google Play Store.
Since an iPhone with iOS is not an alternative simply because of the high price, I continue to use Android, but custom roms, currently Lineage OS. Thanks to root access, I can choose which of Google’s apps to allow on my mobile phone and which not. I also have extended access and can customize certain settings that further protect my privacy and data.
As a web and app developer, I don’t really have an alternative to Google Analytics, which gives me the same performance with the same low effort. With Google Analytics I can understand which functions are used in my applications and can improve them accordingly. It also provides me with general statistics about the number of users.
Through the use of Google Analytics I violate my own goals, but I only use Google Analytics where it really makes sense and I don’t send any private data etc. from users to Google.
The only way to make an Android app available to the masses is Google Play. There are alternatives like F-Droid, which I also like to use, but as a developer there is no way around Google Play, the same goes for iOS and the App Store. If I want people to keep using my apps, I still have to offer them on Google Play.
Google Webmaster Tools
The same as for Google Play also applies to the webmaster tools. If you as a website operator want users on the most popular search engine in the world to be able to discover your website, you need to use the webmaster tools and have your site indexed correctly.
Because of the services I just can’t do without, I can’t delete my Google Account, although I would love to do that. This corporation has managed to catch me in its arms and won’t let me go. However, I will continue to try to regain at least some freedom by using alternatives.
Maybe this article has helped to open the eyes of some people and to present some alternatives, which I use daily and convincingly. I would be very happy about further alternatives, which I may have forgotten in my list.
Disclaimer: Links to FastMail and LastPass are affilate links, but I would have recommended them anyways!
This article was originally posted on Medium.