Google has become so popular in our world that we have literally replaced the word search with Google in most of our natural conversations. The use of Google search has become so pervasive that most of us consider Google as a search engine company, which is just one piece of the pie. In reality, Google is an ever-expanding company which makes most of its money by collecting and using user data to show you relevant ads, links and content.
While some of us may believe that Google is offering us free services out of the goodness of its heart, the reality is that our data is the product that Google is selling – to brands and businesses who want to target you with ads.
If you value your online privacy, it will do you good to stay away from Google as far as possible. And while it’s easy easier said than done, there are certain steps that you can take to minimize the data collection. For some of us, it might be more difficult than others, however, if you follow the steps that I show you, you can lead a more private life online, so to speak.
Take Charge Of Your Privacy by Removing Google from Your Life
Do note that Google is just one company that collects data, while there are other forms of surveillance that tracks your online activity, which is much harder to evade. But if you are ready to take the first step towards taking charge of your online data, here is how you can remove Google from your life:
Why We Need to Rely Less on Google?
Before we begin our article, I know some of you might have doubts as to why you should rely less on Google to become more private. The reason behind this reasoning is pretty simple. Most of us are relying on Google for almost all our online needs. We search for stuff on Google, watch videos on YouTube, use Gmail as our main email provider, use Google Maps to navigate, use Chrome for browsing the web, and so on.
While Google like any other company doesn’t associate data directly with you, with so many services in place, it doesn’t have to put much effort into recreating your entire virtual life. Just think about it, Google knows where you live and travel to, what you search, what you do on the web, what videos are you interested in, who is on your contact list, and so much more. If you are using an Android phone then Google also has access to all your photos, call data, and a list of every app that you use on your phone.
With that much information, ask yourself, do you really want one company to have all that data about you? I mean, the answer to this question might have been yes, if Google was known for its high privacy standards. However that’s not the case, on the contrary, Google has been known to collect even more data without user permission that it should. Just recently, Google was found to collect location data from Android phones even when location history was turned off, and it faced a big lawsuit over it.
Frankly, if you are okay with this, kudos to you and you don’t need to do anything. However, if you find all these things a little creepier than it should, follow along as we show you some steps to lower your dependence on Google and safeguard your data.
How to Replace Google
If you are ready to replace Google, congratulations. You have already taken the first step towards improving your privacy. However, as I said, the journey will be harder than you expect. To remove Google from our lives, we will need to replace its services with other services that explicitly promise not to track us. Sometimes, those services are not as feature-rich as Google, and then, you will have to decide if you want more convenience or more privacy.
Most of us will choose different things depending on our needs and that’s completely fine. You don’t have to switch everything and remove Google in its entirety from your life. You just need to make it tougher for Google to read your patterns so that it can’t track your every second of your life. If that means using third-party services which might also track you, you can do that too.
1. Replace Google Search with DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo markets itself as a search engine that doesn’t track you. The service offers complete anonymous search allowing you to keep your searches private. You can use DuckDuckGo on your browser or download its mobile apps (Android/iOS) if you want to use the service on the go. DuckDuckGo provides users with anonymity by not tracking your IP address, not asking you to create an account, and not saving cookies and search history. One good thing about DuckDuckGo is that it automatically forces all your web browsing to use the secure “HTTPS” route so that you protected while browsing the web.
There are a lot of benefits of using DuckDuckGo over Google which we have covered in the past.
2. Replace Google Chrome with Other Secure Browsers
Google Chrome is a behemoth in the browser industry as it has captured the majority share in the browser market. As of June 2018, Google Chrome has captured over 67% of browser market share in the world. If you are one of those users who is using Google Chrome, it’s time that you switch to something more private. If you are an Apple user, the simple answer is to use Safari as not only it’s fast but it’s also very secure as Apple is adding more and more privacy features every year.
If you use Windows and Android, your best bet is to use Mozilla Firefox as it’s both secure and blazing fast, and can go head to head with Google Chrome when it comes to speed. The Firefox team has worked hard to release their latest Firefox Quantum 59 update which has changed the way this browser works. If you haven’t tried it till now, I highly suggest that you do it right now. Also, remember to make DuckDuckGo your default search engine whichever browser you are using.
3. Discard Google Password Manager
If you have been using Google Chrome all this while, chances are that you are using Google’s password manager to autofill your password. Since you are switching the browser now, it’s better to let go of a browser-based password manager and use a product which is built for it.
I always recommend LastPass as its free tier gives enough features so that most of us can use it without paying. However, if you want to see options, you should check out our best password managers article for more in-depth analysis of each password management tool.
4. Move Your Email from Gmail
This probably will be the hardest thing to do as most of us have had our emails for quite a long time and it’s what we use to create other accounts and talk to our contacts. That’s why, if you can’t switch your email, you don’t have to.
That being said, if you are using a business email with Google as your provider, you can use other services which provide more secure business email options. They might cost a little more, however, they are also more secure.
I recommend FastMail as its the best business email provider I could find, however, you can choose whatever service that meets your needs.
5. Don’t Use Google DNS
Using an open and free DNS service is good for people who want to protect their browsing data from the prying eyes of their internet service providers or ISPs. One of the most popular free DNS services is Google DNS. While Google DNS is good for protecting your data from your ISP, it won’t protect your data from Google itself. If you want to make sure that your browsing history is not being track by either your ISP or Google, you better move to a more private DNS server like Cloudflare. There are other free and secure DNS providers in the market and if you like to see a list of them, visit our article which lists the best open and free DNS services that you can use.
6. Move Your Files Away from Google Drive
Google Drive is yet another major data harvesting tool in the hands of Google. If you are using Google Drive, it’s time that you switch to a more secure and private cloud storage provider.
While Dropbox might be the first cloud storage provider that comes to your mind because of its features and ease of use, there are many other cloud storage providers which bring extreme protection by encrypting your data. You should definitely see our picks for the best Google Drive alternatives, before making your choice.
7. Stop Using Google Maps
This is yet another major Google service which is pretty hard to replace because of sheer convenience and accurate data that it offers. Before Waze got acquired by Google, it used to be a good alternative to Google Maps, however, after the acquisition went through, we are not sure whether it’s sharing data with Google or not.
Keeping that in mind, iOS users will find it more prudent to use Apple Maps, which has received some major improvements in the past. Non iOS users will find the Nokia Here Maps (Android/iOS) to be the best Google Maps alternative. The point here is to rely on Google Maps as less as possible. If you do need to use it in some circumstances, you should definitely go ahead, however, try to use it as less as possible.
8. Replace Google Weather with DarkSky
Another way Google can track your location data is using its weather app. Since, a weather app needs your location access to tell you what it’s like outside, using Google Weather is not recommended. It’s also pretty easy to replace Google Weather services as there are a number of more accurate and good looking weather apps out there. My favorite weather app of choice is DarkSky (Android/iOS) as it’s accurate and looks great.
9. Move Your Chats Away from Google Hangouts
While it’s hard to reset your email, moving your chat service away from Hangouts is pretty easy, especially when there are a ton of exceptional chatting services out there. iOS users have the benefit of using iMessage which is one the most secure and feature-rich messaging service in the market right now.
Android users can choose between WhatsApp (Android/iOS) or Telegram (Android/iOS) or any other messaging service that they find to meet their needs. One thing that I would like to mention here is that WhatsApp might not be secure in the future as Facebook has announced its plan to share data from WhatsApp to its own servers which is a big privacy risk. So, you should avoid using WhatsApp if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of changing your messaging service again.
10. Check Out Google Docs Alternatives
In recent years, Google Docs has emerged as a great productivity suite. Not only you get this service for free, but you also get one of the best live collaboration features I have seen in the market. If you are using Google Docs a lot, it might be a little tough to switch from the service but there are options out there which will make the transition easier.
My favorite document app is Quip (Android/iOS) and if you have never heard of it before, you should definitely give it a try. It is a paid service but it’s also highly functional and brings a ton of features that Google Docs lacks. You can also use it to manage a team and your daily workflow.
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Google Chrome Alternatives
Safeguard Your Privacy By Cutting Out Google
That ends our article on how you can safeguard your online privacy by relying less and less on Google. If you follow all the above ten steps, your online life will be less reliant on Google, and more secure for most use-cases.
That said, I know it will be hard to execute all the ten steps at once, that’s why you should start with the few things that you are comfortable with and then move onto other steps. Do let us know if you liked the article or not by dropping your thoughts in the comments section below.