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People are beginning to realize that Google is recording and reselling their personal data. On top of that, that personal data is being sold to unknown (to us) advertisers, corporations, and government agencies.
How can they do that? Well I don’t know many people that read the User Agreements (EULA) that we are asked to approve every time we use a new online service. Next time … take the time. You’ll be surprised how much you are allowing other companies into your personal matters.
But that’s another story.
That being said, Google is the largest of the data collection companies we normally use, followed right after that by Facebook and Microsoft (through Windows-10). Many tech- conscious users are beginning to move away from Google, some are even cutting the cord completely.
After using Google for many years, I realized that using such an intrusive platform had its downsides. A couple of factors in particular drove me to make a clean break.
Privacy and security
The appeal of escaping Google comes down to privacy. Google collects an alarming amount of data about you. It’s safe to say that if you’re not a paying customer (ie: advertiser) then you’re the product being sold, and that’s Google’s business model. They collect your personal data and resell it to the highest paying buyer.
Security goes hand-in-hand with that. To Google’s credit, the company gives you tools to opt out of the give-us-your-private-data-for-our-services game altogether. The basics are covered in these two articles:
- How to download your Google data so you can see what’s being recorded.
- How to delete your Google data to protect yourself.
Another reason to get rid of Google is to make your choice as a consumer for a more responsible media. As a technical journalist, I’m acutely aware that Google and Facebook jointly dominate the media distribution and discovery landscape. With no strong competitors to Google Search in particular, Google’s algorithms hold unprecedented sway over the data searching in our society.
Google outwardly seems as dedicated to responsible stewardship as one could hope, considering Google makes its money by selling your personal life to others. But it’s still concerning enough to merit supporting alternatives and competitors.
Everyone uses Google differently; I was probably like the basic user of Google services. I used Google Search, Google Maps, and occasionally I’d use Gmail. If you have an Android mobile device, you need a Google account.
Dropping Gmail was easier than expected. I tried Yahoo! Mail, but after the security breach of over 1 billion passwords last year, I still hesitate to think that they’ve got their act together. Plus — there were too many ads for my taste. I found Microsoft’s overhauled Outlook web interface (and truly excellent mobile app) was the best alternative. You can add both POP and IMAP accounts to the web interface from other email services which is a nice feature. But I still rely on the MS Office Suite so the Outlook email client is where my emails are stored. And it, of course, provides for both POP and IMAP accounts as well.
Instead of Google Docs, I tried Office 365 but I’m not a fan of Software as a Service. I prefer to pay one time for a software license, not a yearly subscription fee. However, Microsoft Outlook Online is a feature of the Outlook web interface, and operates much cleaner than Google Docs. And One Drive is easier to access than Google Drive for online storage. I prefer native desktop apps to web apps, but if you need to use online apps for your work, give Office Outlook Online a try. Because most office workers are familiar with the MS Office suite, the online version will be a natural transition.
I used Google Drive because it was part of the Google web interface. But Microsoft One Drive is a part of Outlook Online, and it’s easier to use. Plus One Drive has a nifty desktop app that lets you sync your desktop to One Drive. You can even sync it across multiple computers if you want
Google Calendar has plenty of competition. This is a more personal choice, and people can get very attached—consider the furor when Microsoft shuttered Sunrise Calendar. On the other hand, most online portals include some form of a calendar. The catch is getting it to sync with your email. Both Google and Outlook Online do that. But remember, we’re talking about moving away from Google intrusiveness, so Outlook wins out here. And if you use the Outlook desktop app, then the calendar is seamlessly integrated into email and notifications as well.
Google Search rules for a reason. The only decent alternatives I found were DuckDuckGo, StartPage, and Bing. If you are just generally searching, Bing is fine. But if you want security and privacy of what and when you search, I recommend DuckDuckGo. It isn’t as full-featured, but it records no user data—that’s the primary selling point of the platform. Ditto for StartPage.
Google Maps alternatives were a challenge. Your best bets are Waze or Bing Maps. But let’s be honest—they have nothing on Google Maps. Waze has a web app, and powerful community-sourced data is its biggest selling point. But guess what? Google Maps uses Waze’s data in Maps! So, pick your choice.
Google has us in its grasp for good reason. Looking back at my migration away from it, I can honestly say some alternatives couldn’t compare. And everyone chooses their own balance between security & privacy, vs convenience, based on which services you value most. If you decide to delete Google from your life, too, let us know how it goes in our comments section.
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