I'm Almost DeGoogled

DeGoogled life

It's been a few months since I last created an article and I knew this was going to happen at some point. It's not that I lost interest in writing articles for my blog or because I have very little readers anyway. There just isn't really all that much to write about. Or is there? Because of the pandemic I'm pretty much homebound. My client obligates me to work from home, there's a night curfew, I cannot invite (too many) guests, shops, restaurants and bars are closed and worst of all ..... I can't travel.

But I do try to keep myself as busy as possible. One off the things I've been doing lately is increasing my online security and privacy. The biggest step I've made so far is to get rid off Google as much as possible. I still have a Google account, but I removed most of my personal data from Google. Now, I've reached a point where it gets a bit difficult. Actually, it is not difficult, but there some sacrifices to be made.

Google is known for generating a lot privacy concerns. Especially, after it's 2012 policy update where they've made it possible for them to share all of your private data across different (often 3rd party) platforms. I will not go into much detail here, because many articles[1] about this have already written (better than I can) on the internet. Google it :).

Google services are "free", that is, you don't need to pay for it, but that usually means that you are "a part of" the service. Your private data is not secure in Google's greedy hands. For me this is the main reason why I want to remove as much of my personal data from Google as possible. The ultimate goal is to remove Google from my life entirely.

So what did I do so far?

I removed my business from Google. As a self-employed IT engineer I added my company to Google so future clients have quicker and easier means of finding me. However, I've noticed that so far all my clients have found me via a different route. Being listed on Google adds no value to my business at all so I much rather remove it from Google, because they publicly show my home address and a Google Maps streetview picture.

No more Google on my websites. Until recently, I used Google's AdSense and Analytics on my websites for showing adds and keeping track of my visitors. By doing that, I gave Google a huge amount of valuable information about my website traffic. I've removed both services and currently looking for better alternatives.

Moved to another email provider. Like many other people, I have a Gmail account. Google servers scan your emails for information and uses that to send you more suitable adds and block spam. Whenever, you buy something online and have the invoice send to your Gmail account, Google will then know what you buy and subsequently know what your interest are. I still have my Gmail account, but I stopped using it. I switched over to Switzerland based ProtonMail.

Removed all my photos from the cloud. My android phone also uses Google and by default synchronizes a lot of information to the Google cloud. One of the things it does is upload all my photos from my phone to the cloud as a means of backup. Whenever I use my phone to take a picture it will automatically and immediately upload that picture to the unsecure Google cloud. The connection to the Google cloud has no end-to-end encryption which makes it susceptible for interception.

Made my phone stop synchronizing to Google. Apart from all your photos your phone will also synchronize other personal data like your phone's hardware details and settings. Google doesn't need to know that and I don't want them to know. To completely degoogle my phone I'm currently experimenting with an old phone on which I installed LineageOS. For updates I use F-droid.

Removed all files from Google Drive. I never really used Google Drive for storing and sharing files, but I removed whatever I did have stored here. Since I'm now a paying customer of ProtonMail (plus) and ProtonVPN (plus) I also got early access to their ProtonDrive. It's still in BETA, but it looks promising. They're currently still working on an android app. When that is ready I will probably use it a lot to backup files and settings from my phone.

Stopped using Google Chrome on my phone and computer. Actually, I still have Google Chrome installed on my phone and computer(s), but I don't use it anymore. When you use Google Chrome and you're logged in with your Google account it will track and remember everything you do on the internet. Google will know exactly what sites you visit and when. Even when you have nothing to hide this is still private information you just don't want to share with Google over an unencrypted connection.

Cleaned up my Google account. When you're logged in to Google you can manage all your account settings. There's quite a few settings to scroll through and the annoying thing about this is that you'll keep looping through the same settings. It takes a lot off time and effort to go through your Google settings, but it is not all that difficult. It's just a lot of work. After reviewing all my Google account settings I managed to disable most of my unwanted settings. I'm worried though that Google will turn them on again whenever I update my phone or after they update their policy. I've seen it happen with Facebook many times.

What I still use. I still use Google Translate, Google Maps and YouTube. I don't really need a Google account for YouTube, but without it I can't subscribe to certain channels. Also, it won't remember my search history. Is that bad? Well, it's a small sacrifice, but there are some great alternatives I'm currently looking into. For Google Maps there's a great alternative called OpenStreetMap. They also have an android app called OsAmd. It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but so far all I miss is streetview. I'm still looking for a good (free or cheap) alternative for Google Translate, because the app comes in very handy sometimes when I'm on vacation.

Please drop a comment below when you have some great suggestions about degoogle'ing your (my) life, or when you just have an opinion.

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