Friends, Romans, Internet Users, lend me your screens.
I have known for a while that Google is one of the largest companies with most of us using their services daily. But recently I have realized the extent which they use those services to track you, and some of the negative impacts. One example of this is shown by a tool built by Carnegie Melon called AdFisher, which sends out “hundreds or thousands of automated Web browsers” to build up a profile of interests with ad-targeting networks. The tool found that fake users who were male job seekers were more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown ads for high-paying jobs. (Full Article: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/539021/probing-the-dark-side-of-googles-ad-targeting-system/) Another reason I switched is on the principle of supporting the “little guy” rather than super-large corporations.
So, I decided to start making small incremental steps away from Google’s services, the first of which being Gmail. My new email uses ProtonMail, which I set up a while ago but recently started using more frequently, then bought a custom domain and made the switch. (I still have my Gmail account set up to forward to the ProtonMail for people who still have my old email.) ProtonMail uses end-to-end encription so that no one can read your messages on their way to the recipient, not even ProtonMail itself! They also have apps for iPhone and Android.
You might think that the Google search engine might be the hardest to stop using, but I found an alternative called DuckDuckGo, “The search engine that doesn’t track you.” It is almost as good as Google at searches and there have only been a few instances where the results have missed the context and I had to add a few keywords. A small price to pay for Google knowing less about you per day.
Google Drive, Calendar, and Hangouts/Video Calls can be replaced with a service called NextCloud, which you can host yourself for free or pay for a company to host it for you. I am currently testing it on a Raspberry Pi to see if I like it, and so far it’s been great!
I currently have an Android phone, but I found a Linux-based privacy-focused phone that comes out in Jan 2019 made by Purism, a company that has made secure Linux Laptops in the past (https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5/).
The last few services that will be hard or impossible to switch away from are Google Maps, Translate, YouTube, Google Groups (when joining a club, organization, etc.). I don’t see a problem with using a few Google services as long as Google doesn’t have access to all my emails, files, calendars, and searches.
That’s all folks; thanks for reading. I’ll leave you with this limerick taken from my last post:
Johan’s become opposed to Google,
The Internet kit and caboodle.
He wants to stop being tracked,
And get privacy back,
But all of it’s just too dang useful.