The last few months have been a wake-up call for anyone who cares about privacy. But perhaps it’s just been another headline blocking your way to the last round of sports, because I’ll tell you one truth: the generation I’m part of just doesn’t care about privacy. We all knew Google and most free services were grabbing our data and serving us ads. We grew up with that routine, so much so that some of us learned to share online before we got into math. This behavior is so prevalent that the upcoming generations have their fates sealed already, with their pictures being exposed all over the internet sometimes before they’re even born. It’s like The Truman Show, with many, many Trumans.
Yet, I didn’t leave Google due to privacy, I did so because of its use of my private data. Using Google daily and being targeted with its ads is like having a bad fight with your best friend, when he uses your darkest shared secrets against you. After a chain of events, the dismissal of Reader and the new ads in Gmail camouflaged within your inbox, I decided it was time to jump out. That’s what I did and I’m here to tell you how.
If you decide to move away from Google, this is where I suggest you to start. There’s Bing from Microsoft, which is free and offers a good alternative. Still, though, with Bing you’re also keeping your data on a large company, one in the governmental watch roll. If you’re looking for a versatile and private search engine, your best pick is definitely DuckDuckGo, which is the place I chose to find stuff. It has an average learning curve, but it is worth.
There’s one thing to think about when you choose any of these services, one that will haunt you as long as you try to move away from Google: integration. Most browsers nowadays offer Bing as a default search engine — even Google Chrome, which also has DuckDuckGo on the list. If you’re on Safari you can pick Bing already. For DuckDuckGo you’ll have to rely on an extensions like Glims to give you more options. Bing is also an option on mobile, meanwhile DuckDuckGo demands the use of its own app or, as I do, an action in Launch Center Pro (that is, on the iPhone).
I’m still looking for a proper replacement for Google Images, which I call from DuckDuckGo itself sporadically. So if you have a great suggestion, leave it in the comments.
I was never a huge fan of Google Drive for the same reason it was so hard to move away from Google Search. Dropbox is so much better integrated among my applications and resources. As an Apple user, whatever is not synced through Dropbox uses iCloud. Another fine new alternative is Copy, which offers a good amount of capacity for new accounts.
However, the best part of Drive is not the storage, but its tools. Creating a spreadsheet or a presentation is smooth and fantastic. Microsoft has been offering the Office package for the web and last year, when Google Docs was still a thing, it took the best outcome in our comparison. We also have a recent review of the suite you should check out. Apple users can count on the recent iWork Beta, which is the tool I’m relying upon nowadays. If you’re trying to stay away from any major corporation, Zoho offers many web apps, including a Docs suite.
Well, this one was quite easy since I never actually used Google Plus — and odds are you don’t use it either. Next!
This was definitely the biggest challenge of this whole quest. Gmail is a great web app, probably the best email client around. But Google knows that and they now are pushing ads harder and harder into it. After they added tabs to Gmail, the advertising game changed and they began introducing ads among your inbox items.
I didn’t even use the web interface, but that move was a blow way too low for me. I began connecting dots and conspiring that, since they were being so aggressive with their ads, they may try a Twitter move, limiting access from third-party apps to Gmail and pulling us into the ads. I moved quickly and was lucky to count on AppStorm to offer a great roundup of email options and give me the proper information to choose Fastmail, which beyond supporting your custom domain also offers its own handle, a blazingly fast experience attached to a clean interface and a great integration.
But maybe the worst part of changing email is editing all the information attached to it. Profiles, newsletters, contacts. It’s a lot of work. After years using Gmail, having a clean sheet was great to start over and avoid undesired emails. Since most of my logins are stored within 1Password, I had a huge deal of manual labor, but at least I could keep track of it while also removing unused apps, resulting in a tidy library.
I also don’t chat through email much, so only a few key contacts needed my updated info. The problem is that one of them was my mother. It was hard enough to teach her how to turn her computer on and when she asked me “But why did you change your email?” I couldn’t find the words. Her question echoed through every aspect of this change, but I have no regrets.
YouTube and other sporadic uses
There are some Google apps that I couldn’t find a proper alternative. YouTube is the main one, because it truly stands out because of its content, not the platform per se. YouTube is everything Google+ wants to be. I also link my blog to Google Authorship, since not because I stopped using Google that the rest of the world has done the same.
Often Microsoft and Apple provide alternatives to most tools offered by Google, such as Maps and Calendar and then you must evaluate your goal here. If you’re running away from the ads, there’s no problem with sticking to any of those options. However, if you care about your privacy, you’ll have to dig deeper into the options.
Moving away from Google — and even the other internet giants — is definitely possible today. The question is, will you actually do it? We’d love to hear your thoughts on if and why you’d move away from Google today. It’s a move many of us have already started, and I can’t help but think that more will follow in our shoes going forward, especially as people become more conscious of the privacy concerns of leaving all our data in Google’s hands.