How to de-Google

By Astrid Popovici

Google is notorious for its bad privacy protections.  They track you across the internet, collecting data from your searches, online purchases, location, and more, and then sell this data to advertisers.  They can even track your offline credit card purchases, and have allegedly continued tracking users in apps even after these users have opted out. Many have described Google’s business model as “surveillance capitalism.”

Anyone concerned with privacy would do well to de-Google, but the ubiquity of Google applications can make it seem impossible to avoid.  Here are three switches you can make to detach from Google and better protect your privacy.  

  1. Google Search —> DuckDuckGo or StartPage

DuckDuckGo, unlike Google, doesn’t track your searches or target ads based on personal information.  However, DuckDuckGo uses Bing’s results, which can occasionally be worse than Google’s.  If you want Google Search results without the invasion of privacy, try StartPage.

  1. Google Chrome —> Brave Browser, or Firefox with add-ons.

Brave Browser has built-in ad blocking and privacy protections.  It’s also very fast, because when you don’t need to load a whole bunch of ads and trackers, pages will load more quickly.

If you use Firefox, it’s a good idea to install privacy-related add-ons.  I recommend AdBlock Plus to block ads, PrivacyBadger to block trackers, and HTTPS Everywhere to make your connection to websites more secure.

  1. Gmail —> Protonmail 

Protonmail, an email company based in Switzerland, uses end-to-end encryption and has other privacy protections.  Protonmail makes money using a freemium model, rather than by selling your data.  This contrasts starkly with Google, which scans your inbox to collect your private information.  One downside with Protonmail is that you only get 500 MB of free storage, compared to Gmail’s 15 GB.

For a more complete list of Google alternatives, see this thread.