After thinking about this for the better part of 3 years and not actually doing anything about it, I have finally become more and more aware of both how big Google has gotten, and more importantly, how much Google knows about me (and everyone else). Don’t get me wrong, Google’s services are fantastic. I use them extensively, like Gmail, Contacts, RSS reader, etc etc. There’s nothing bad about them except…
Well, they’re free. Great, free is always good right? Well, not without conditions. Free does come with a price. Your information. It’s out there, all of it. Everything you have ever told Google (by putting information in, sending emails, etc) is with Google now, forever. This information is available to the highest advertisement bidder. Same with FaceBook. I deactivated (because you can’t delete) my FaceBook account a while back, but my information is still with them, forever. Thankfully it wasn’t much to begin with. Now, for me this was never a real big deal, except for the contacts that I have listed there. All of my friend’s and family’s information is there for Google now, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, addresses…. Yeah, that’s scary. Thankfully Google doesn’t seem to do anything evil with it (I hope, but it’s impossible to know for sure).
For me Google is like an addiction. My biggest addiction is Dr. Pepper and cheeseburgers (and it shows). This means it’s going to be hard to quit that addiction. Dr. Pepper and cheeseburgers are very delicious, and Google is very good at what they do.
Does this mean give up everything Google forever? Nah. For example, things like Google Maps can still be used, just don’t be logged in. Keeping their information that they have of you at a minimum is ok. They will know where you have been, which may or may not be a good thing, or matter.
The hardest part? Finding suitable replacements. I have to admit, Google has some great software. Gmail is easily the best free e-mail service I have ever used since I started on the internet in the mid 90′s. Before Gmail you had Yahoo! Mail (which is what I had, and is still around of course), and Hotmail. Let’s face it, Hotmail was just terrible. If you don’t care about the information you are sending in e-mail, I still recommend Gmail more than any other service.
Finding replacement services is half the battle, but the other half is me. I have to adjust how I use the internet. I have to stop and think about the implications of what I’m about to do with my information. If it’s a free service, is this information something that I can broadcast to the public? Is this information I want to broadcast to the public? If this a pay service, what’s their policies on security and privacy? One of the best examples I can think of for the last question is the tag line to my domain registrar, gandi.net. The line is “no bullshit”. That’s the best line ever.
While I work on migrating over to alternative services, I will be keeping updated posts on my adventure in my quest for Google Independence. So stay tuned!