“The network wants its tendrils to cradle the world, wrapping itself around everyone and everything. In the summer of 2015, Google renamed itself Alphabet, which was a statement about the company’s place in history. A search engine called Google remained, but the company had become so much more than that. It is a commercial bazaar, a backbone of Internet infrastructure, a software company, a hardware company, a phone company, an advertising agency, a home appliance company, a life sciences company, a machine learning company, an automobile company, a social media company and a TV network.”
— Franklin Foer, World Without Mind
Are you someone who’s bothered by the notion of a 1984-esque future where everything you say and do is recorded? A future where big corporations (and the government) always know where you are, who you’re with, what your interests are, and what you’re up to?
Well, you should know that the company at the forefront of making that future a reality is a big firm that goes by the name of Google, based out of Mountain View, California. Google’s own former chief executive Eric Schmidt has made no secret of the company’s ambitions on many occasions. Read these quotes:
“Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it… We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
— Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Google, October 1st, 2010
“We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like.“
— Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Google, September 7th, 2010
“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions…They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next… We know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.“
— Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Google, August 14th, 2010
“Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.”
— Eric Schmidt, April 23rd, 2013, speaking to Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report
Unless stopped, soon Google’s knowledge of you won’t just be rough, it will be precise… thanks to forthcoming “advances” like facial recognition.
The company is already increasingly reliant upon sensitive information that it collects or scans to make money, and has long offered products to users which purposely do not have adequate measures in place to protect privacy. At the turn of the century, Google used to be just a search engine, but now, Google is everywhere – and the company is engaged in continually working to expand its reach. What’s more, Google has a near monopoly in the online advertising and search business.
“The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users…. We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”
– Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, back when Google was just a search engine and not a spying machine. The lure of money eventually persuaded Brin and Page to embrace advertising and then user tracking.
Additionally, its support for many of its products is lackluster at best and terrible at worst. When something goes wrong, it can be days before Google even admits the problem, let alone gets it fixed.
That’s the hidden price of many of Google’s “free” products.
The following is a short selection of articles, blog posts, and columns that explain more about Google and its relentless assault on your privacy.
- The Evil Side of Google – Exploring Google’s User Data Collection – “The final resting place for data at Google is likely in permanent storage. Google’s privacy policies hint that some user data can never be completely deleted because of permanent backups.”
- Google Chrome OS – do we want another monoculture? – “But regardless of Brin’s claims, the new model pushes users towards Google. That means more opportunities to collect your data – and serve you ads. Whatever you think of Chrome OS – it may work and it may not – always remember that Google is, at heart, an advertising company.”
- Is Google Turning Into Big Brother? – “Microsoft only wanted all of our money. Increasingly, it seems that Google wants all of our data. In running away from the evil empire, have we now instead rushed into the arms of Big Brother?”
- Google’s User Data Empire – “For Google, it’s different. Their specialty is organizing information. They have access to more avenues for userdata than any other company in the history of the world, and the ability to connect every aspect of every person’s life.”
- What Google Knows About You – “Perhaps the biggest concern for privacy advocates is how the treasure trove of data Google has about you might end up in the wrong hands. It is, says Bankston, a wealth of detailed, sensitive information that provides ‘one-stop shopping for government investigators, litigators and others who want to know what you’ve been doing.'”
- The Next Net – “The search engine has dissected the behavior of Web surfers, including which sites they visit and which they link to. With this knowledge, Google proceeded to develop a map of the influence and relevance of billions of Web sites. It’s the heart of its search and advertising business.”
- Does Google Know Too Much About You? – “According to its privacy page on Google’s Mobile Privacy page, the company says, ‘for products and services with voice recognition capabilities, we collect and store a copy of the voice commands you make to the product or service.’ No doubt Google does this to improve its voice recognition services, but still: Google has a copy of your voice on file.”
- Is Google Evil? – “Google already knows more about you than the National Security Agency ever will. And don’t assume for a minute it can keep a secret. YouTube fans – and everybody else – beware.”
- RSnake picks on Google Health… yes, Google wants your medical records, too! – “Seriously, with all that Google has undertaken, it’s become a one-stop shop for identity theft and privacy breach.”
- Google’s Ad Targeting Turns Algorithms on You – “Soon, everything of Google’s that you touch will all become part of your profile — from its website analytics program, sneaky Big Brother-esque Web History program, checkout system, news subscription reader, image search, cellphone location reporting service, book digitization, news site and GMail e-mail and chats.”
- Ads Follow Web Users, and Get More Personal – “In 2000, DoubleClick abandoned plans to connect online and offline data after a huge outcry. Google, which later acquired DoubleClick, has been conducting studies that connect the two areas.”
- 25 Surprising Things Google Knows About You – “Google is the go-to provider of many things online-search, email, maps, and more. But have you ever stopped to consider all of the information you’re sharing with Google? Read on, and find out all of the dirt that Google has on you.”
Don’t like the idea of Google being able to build a complete profile of you and know everything about you (where you live, where you work, when you’re sleeping, what your interests are, who you hang out with)? Wondering what you can do to change this situation?
Well, there’s a pretty simple way to put your mind at ease, and protect your privacy.
Leave Google behind.
This site exists to help users who have made the decision to part ways with Google, and stop relying on it for everything from email to search to chat. There are alternatives out there for every product or service Google offers.
Each category below offers a sampling of non-Google choices. You don’t have to rely on one of Google’s competitors for everything. The best practice is to find a reliable web host that cares about privacy… and set up shop there. Trust us, it’s totally worth the money. Especially if you own your own business.
Note that many of the websites on this list display Google ads, or serve up their own behavioral targeting ads. Unless you take action to block these ads from displaying, Google and other companies will still be able to track you and build a profile of you!
Alternative Search Engines
- DuckDuck Go – A lightweight, yet powerful search engine that delivers more relevant results. It doesn’t collect any information about its users.
- StartPage – They pay Google for data and use it to provide a completely private, anonymized search experience.
- WolframAlpha – Computational knowledge engine
- RSS Micro – Nifty search engine that looks for RSS feeds and RSS feed entries that match queries.
- Twitter – Find out what people are thinking and saying.
Image Search + Photo Sharing
- Flickr – Search directly from the homepage (Flickr is owned by SmugMug).
- Picsearch – An image search service with more than 3,000,000,000 pictures. Filtering can be enabled.
- Image After – A large, searchable, online photo collection. And it’s free!
- Open ClipArt – Searchable archive of user contributed clip art
- Pixabay – Royalty free stock images
- Unsplash – High quality photos that are free to reuse
Tip: The following are excellent alternatives to Google Chrome. One other thing: Avoid browser toolbars (like Google Toolbar) at all costs. Every good modern browser has a built in search box anyway. Note that browsers which ship with operating systems (Edge, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) are not included on this list.
- Mozilla Firefox – Widely used, frequently updated, extensible, secure, and stable. Google Search is the default – be sure to change that!
- Vivaldi – A really cool browser that uses the same rendering engine as Chrome but has no Google spyware.
- Opera – A long-established cross-platform browser that, like Vivaldi, uses Chrome’s rendering engine nowadays but lacks Google spyware.
- Windows Search – It’s built into Windows 7 and Vista by default, but XP and 2000 users can get it, too! Google’s doesn’t even compare.
- Beagle – Rapidly improving search tool for Linux. Built into many other Linux applications.
- Recoll – Nifty desktop search for GNU/Linux.
- Copernic Desktop Search – For Windows. Very powerful.
- Locate32 – Fast Windows search tool that searches filenames.
Tip: The best of the following options is the first, ProtonMail. Sign up for a premium plan… you get to use your own domain, which means you get a nice address (firstname.lastname@example.org) plus you can take your domain to another provider.
- ProtonMail – The gold standard of secure email, based in Switzerland.
- Hushmail.com – Canadian-based and superior to most free webmail services, but not as secure as ProtonMail.
- Lavabit – Creators of the Dark Internet Mail Environment Standard.
Tip: When creating a blog, sign up with your own domain – that way it’s easy to change providers later if you wish, or move your blog to your own server and import it into a content management system.
- WordPress.com – Jump in and start blogging without having to set anything up.
- LiveJournal – SUP Fabrik’s popular network of personal blogs.
- Tumblr – Oath/Yahoo owned microblogging and blogging platform. Signing up is ridiculously simple.
Tip: Surprisingly, there’s a lot of great video-sharing sites out there that rival YouTube in almost every respect
- Vimeo – Popular alternative to YouTube
- Veoh – All the Videos, TV Shows and Movies You Want to Watch. All In One Place.
- Blip.tv: “We’ve got a great service for great shows. We leave you free to focus on creativity.”
- Metacafe: Video entertainment, powered by you
Virtual Globe and Mapping
- NASA World Wind – It’s totally free, open source, and just plain cool… (requires Windows)
- Marble – Beautiful and works on every major operating system out there (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Microsoft Virtual Earth – The Bird’s Eye view in urban areas is fun. Online equivalent is Bing Maps.
- Rand McNally – Yep, they have online maps.
- Trails Topo Finder – Topographic maps. Some features require a subscription.
Chat and Instant Messaging
Tip: Use a Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) client. Google provides XMPP gateways to its service, so you can keep chatting with friends who haven’t wised up and decided to ditch Google Talk and/or Gmail. Once you’ve downloaded a client, you can sign up for a free screen name at jabber.org.
- Pidgin – Probably the best XMPP client out there. Also supports AIM, MSN, and Yahoo.
- Psi – Another cross platform XMPP client.
- Gajim – Yet another cross platform XMPP client.
- Adium -Excellent choice for Mac OS users.
Tip: For greater control and customization (and privacy) consider installing Mailman or Sympa in your own server environment.
- FreeLists – Provides free mailing list hosting to lists whose topics are related to technology, science, medicine, etc.
- Coollist – web-based system for anyone to easily create FREE mailing lists.
- Topica – “The Leader in Email Discussion Lists””
Tip: Webmasters and business owners, save yourselves a ton of trouble by avoiding services like Google Checkout and its equally bad rivals, PayPal and Amazon Payments. These services are NOT banks and make it very difficult to customize a shopping experience! The following are recommended merchant service providers and payment processors.
- Dharma Merchant Services – Socially responsible merchant services provider. Cost effective, too!
- Cardaccept – They’ve been helping businesses since 1993.
- Vantage Card Services – Another good choice – they pride themselves on their BBB record.
- Click and Pledge – Good if you don’t want to set up a merchant services account.
- Stripe – Payments for developers. “You don’t need a merchant account or gateway. Stripe handles everything, including storing cards, subscriptions, and direct payouts to your bank account.”
- Obopay – “Send money instantly to loved ones, pay cash to merchants, and receive money from others. No charge to receive money. Money transfer is easy, safe, and secure.”
- Braintree – They simplify payments online for more than 2,000 businesses.
- PayLeap – Goes wherever your business goes.
- WePay – Accept credit cards, no merchant account or programming skills required.
Tip: An even better option than any of these is to run a logfile analyzer on your own server, like AWStats or W3Perl, if your host allows you to do so. Steer clear of Urchin – it’s owned by Google.
- StatCounter – A free yet reliable invisible web tracker, highly configurable hit counter.
- GoStats – A reliable web stats traffic counter service since 1999
- Clicky – Monitor, analyze, and react to your blog or web site’s traffic in real time.
- Hitstats – Professional and free web tracker
Tip: Looking to move office collaboration into the cloud? You’ll be pleased to know that Google Docs is not the only game in town.
- Zoho – As one analyst puts it… “They’ve got more applications than Google…. The apps they have are richer”
- ThinkFree – Another online suite that’s more secure and nimble than Google Docs
- Ajax13 – Not quite as good as either Zoho or ThinkFree, but their products have some unique features.
- Zimbra Collaborative Suite – An excellent choice if you want email + productivity apps all-in-one. Very configurable.
- Office 365 – Microsoft’s online office suite. Be aware that all of the decent plans have a price tag.
Call Routing and Visual Voicemail
Tip: Why use Google Voice when there are better options available?
- YouMail – Replaces your voicemail with a much better visual voicemail service
Learn how to block Google from invading your privacy within Firefox.