Giving up Google for lent – an update

I recently got the following question in respect to my giving-up-Google-for-lent post, and I thought I might as well reply on the blog

I started to give up on Google’s products and services. At least to mostly of them. Some I can’t right now. How are you doing about this? Can you give me some tips about replacement to Google’s products?

The context: I was pretty taken aback what Google knows about me, and in fact, since then I learned that it was even worse – the story of third-party-cookies: Unless you have those cookies disabled (and even then there is a hack around this), Google, Facebook, and the major ad-networks can track your entire browsing history – or at least your entire history as far as sites are concerned where they place ads or “Like”, “+1” etc buttons, which for most of us will be the same.

So what do I do now

  1. Use a browser without an omnibar (ie search & address bar combined) so that data is only sent to the search engine when I search something, not when I type in a web address
  2. Disable predictive searching – pretty much the same reason, and possibly slightly redundant
  3. Log out of Google in the web-browser I am using, so that there are at least only the general anonymous cookies tracking me, not my google account cookie – see below
  4. Disable third party cookies (under Privacy in the Safari settings)
  5. Use a different search engine – I was using Bing for a while, but now I found DuckDuckGo which I really like (see below)

Logging out of Google

Logging out of Google was more difficult than I had envisaged, and it still sometimes gives rise to some hiccups, but IMV it is worth it. Firstly, those are the products I am using

  • Google Mail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Reader
  • Google Search (less and less)
  • Google Maps (incl personal maps, but rarely)
  • Google Docs (rarely)
  • Google News (rarely)
  • YouTube (rarely)

You might have noted that I am not using Google Plus, which is a conscious decision. I got an invite early on, but I thought that putting my social graph into Google would be one step too far.

Firstly, I am using a two-browser set-up. There is my logged in browser (I use Firefox) and there is my regular browser (Safari) – so whenever I need to be logged into Google I simply use Firefox, and I do not use it for anything else. But this is not too often, because I am mainly using Google services offline

  • Mail – via the Apple mail clients
  • Calendar – via the Apple calendar clients
  • Reader – NetNewsWire on the laptop and mobile
  • Docs – use it rarely anyway; access it through various clients if needed, just to up- and download documents
  • Search – if I use it, I use it logged out
  • Maps – generally logged out (except when I need to modify my maps which is rare)
  • News – logged out (I do have a few alerts – tant pis)
  • YouTube – logged out

Now I am reasonably confident that this gives me some privacy. Of course, they can search my mailbox but I have this problem with every provider and I believe that they somewhat restrain themselves here, as this would be too blatant a breach of privacy.

Web Searches

I used Bing for a year or so as my default search engine and it worked reasonably well (even though Google is a tad better though). I recently discovered DDG and this is what I am using now as I like their policies. Their search is not as deep as Google or Bing, but they have some nice features. For example, if there is a relevant Wikipedia article it is displayed in a box on top etc. And there is a one-click “search on Google” feature, so you are not loosing much.

Conclusion

You cant really live without Google, but you can choose what you share

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2 thoughts on “Giving up Google for lent – an update

  1. Thor,

    I commend you for this. I do not know that I have the fortitude to go Google free. Your points about privacy are spot on.

    • you should give it a try 🙂

      to some extent the most important parts are
      – disabling third party cookies
      – being generally logged out of Google
      – using someone else for search – and DDG is really pretty good

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