How to Live Without Google: Alternatives That Protect Your Privacy

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Remove Google from your life? Yes, it can be done!

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Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means they are not only tracking what you search for, they're also tracking which websites you visit, and using all your data for ads that follow you around the Internet. Your personal data can also be subpoenaed by lawyers, including for civil cases like divorce. Google answered over 120,000 such data requests in 2018 alone!

More and more people are also realizing the risk of relying on one company for so many personal services. If you're joining the ranks of people who've decided Google's data collection has become too invasive, here are some suggestions for replacements with minimal switching cost. Most are free, though even those that are paid are worth it — the cost of not switching is a cost to your personal privacy, and the good news is we have a choice!

Boy choosing from a selection of ice cream.

Let's start off with the easiest one! Switching to DuckDuckGo not only keeps your searches private but also gives you extra advantages such as our bang shortcuts, handy Instant Answers, and knowing you're not trapped in a filter bubble.

Gmail, Calendar & Contacts → FastMail (paid), ProtonMail (free with paid options), Tutanota (free with paid options)

FastMail is an independent, paid service that also includes calendar and contacts support across all devices. There are also several ways to get encrypted email between trusted parties by integrating PGP encryption tools. Even more private email alternatives are ProtonMail and Tutanota, both of which offer end-to-end encryption by default.

YouTube → Vimeo (free with paid options)

For videos that are only on YouTube (unfortunately, a lot), you can search for and watch them on DuckDuckGo for better privacy protection via YouTube's "youtube-nocookie" domain. If you're creating and hosting video yourself, however, Vimeo is the best-known alternative which focuses on creators.

Google Maps → Apple Maps (free), OpenStreetMap (free)

For iOS users, Apple gives you an alternative built in via Apple Maps, so no installation is necessary. For wider device support, check out OpenStreetMap (OSM) which is more open, though may not have the same ease-of-use or coverage quality as Apple Maps.

Google Drive → Resilio Sync (free with paid options), Tresorit (paid)

Resilio Sync provides peer-to-peer file synchronization which can be used for private file storage, backup, and file sharing. This also means your files are never stored on a single server in the cloud! The software is available for a wide variety of platforms and devices, including servers. An alternative cloud storage and backup service with end-to-end encryption is Tresorit.

Android → iOS (paid)

The most popular alternative to Android is of course iOS, which offers easy device encryption and encrypted messaging via iMessage by default. We also have tips to increase privacy protection on your iPhone or iPad.

Google Chrome → Safari (free), Firefox (free), Brave (free), Vivaldi (free)

Safari was the first major browser to include DuckDuckGo as a built-in private search option. A more cross-device compatible browser is Mozilla's Firefox, an open source browser with a built-in tracker blocker in private mode. Brave goes one step further with tracker blocking switched on by default. There are also many more browsers that come with DuckDuckGo as a built-in option, such as Vivaldi, which is well suited for power-users.

Blogger → Ghost (paid), WordPress.com (free with paid options)

Ghost is both a hosted (paid) and self-installable blogging platform, tracker-free by default and run by a non-profit foundation. We like it so much we use it for our own blog! A free alternative is WordPress, powering an estimated 33% of the world's websites. It's also available both for self-installation and as a hosted service with no third-party trackers by default. The community is huge with extensive multilingual documentation and many themes to choose from.

Google Hangouts → Zoom (free with paid options), Whereby (free with paid option)

Zoom is a robust video chat alternative we use internally that works well even for large numbers of participants, though requires software to be installed. A web-only alternative is Whereby which doesn't require an account — just go to the website to open a chat room and you're ready.

Google Duo and Android Messages → Signal (free)

There are several services offering private messaging but, as we've mentioned before, Signal gets our recommendation. It offers free, end-to-end encryption for both messages and private calls. It's also recommended by Edward Snowden and renowned security expert Bruce Schneier, among others.

Google Groups → MeWe (free with a paid version), Discourse (paid, or free if self-installed)

MeWe is a social network based around groups that can be made private or public. Their privacy policy makes clear that they don't collect or share personal data. Alternatively there's Discourse, which is an open source discussion platform, offering public and private conversations with a trust system and spam protection. Paid hosting is offered but the software is also freely available for administrators to host on their own servers.

Google Analytics → Fathom (paid), Simple Analytics (paid)

If you run a website that uses Google Analytics, you're letting Google collect data on every visitor, which they can then tie to data collected from millions of other websites. Switching to Fathom or Simple Analytics will still give you visibility into how visitors are using your website, but you'll also be respecting their right to privacy. Both of these services are GDPR-compliant by default, do not use cookies and therefore don't require those annoying cookie agreement popups.

Google Ads & AdSense → CodeFund

CodeFund is currently limited to developers and designers, but if that's your audience this is a platform for both advertising and hosting ads with a focus on ethics, using contextual advertising (i.e. based on the content of websites) rather than behavioral. They take steps to avoid tracking users, such as by not saving IP addresses, and the platform code is open source for anyone to verify.

As you can see, moving away from Google needn't be hard. In fact, you might find you prefer the alternatives while also getting better privacy!


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How to Live Without Google: Alternatives That Protect Your Privacy
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