One of my personal goals for 2022 was to “de-Google” my life. I’ve been a huge user of Google’s products for years, so this was not going to be easy. But Google is an ad company and they’ve hoovered up way too much of my data. So I wanted to reduce my dependency on their tools and minimize the data that I shared. This article will summarize my research and give you a plan to follow in my footsteps. (If you think it’s too late or too hard, it’s neither. Read this entire article.)
Google has over 80 “free” services as of this writing. I say “free” because you’re really paying for these services with your privacy. The first thing I needed to do was make a list of the Google services I was using (which could include several that don’t have “Google” in their name like Android, Waze and YouTube). If you want to follow my process here, you really need to start by seeing what Google already knows about you. This can be quite sobering (even scary), but it will also give you a solid to-do list.
Start here: My De-Google Strategy
When you have a handle on what Google already knows about you and which of their services you’re using, proceed to the next section.
I didn’t cover all 80+ Google services – I focused on the big ones. Over the course of several weeks, I wrote articles that covered the most popular and privacy-invasive Google apps and services. You don’t have to do these in order, despite the numbering:
- Part 1: Google Search, Chrome & Android
- Part 2: Gmail, Gcal & Contacts
- Part 3: Meet/Hangouts, Authenticator, YouTube & Maps/Waze
- Part 4: Google Docs & Google Drive
There are many other companies and products that are hoovering up and sharing your data. I’ve collected several other important articles below that will help you take back your privacy.
- Data Privacy Checklist – my main privacy list, updated regularly
- iOS 15 Security & Privacy Features
- Smartphone Privacy: Reining in Nosy Apps
- Stop Using Public Wi-Fi
- Choose a Private Payment App (Not Venmo)
- Guard Your Digital Rolodex
- Trust No One
- It’s Time to Delete Facebook
- Best & Worst Gifts 2021 – includes both security and privacy
I maintain a dedicated page with tons of security and privacy resources (maybe too many). But here are some of my top privacy-related resources:
- Website: Privacy Guides
- Website: Restore Privacy
- Website: Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity
- Book: Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz
- Book: Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier
- Documentary: The Social Dilemma (Netflix)
- Documentary: Terms And Conditions May Apply
- TED Talk: Glenn Greenwald on Why Privacy Matters
- Essay: The Value of Privacy by Bruce Schneier
- Learn: Go Incognito course (Techlore)
- Learn: Videos (Techlore)
- Podcast: Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons (of course)
- Podcast: Opt Out
- Podcast: Surveillance Report (Techlore)
- Privacy app: Priiv
This is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
It took you years to get where you are now – don’t expect to undo all of that in a day, a week, or even a month. Take your time and take breaks when you need to. And be sure to keep a master list of all the tasks you’ve completed so you can appreciate your progress.
You might think that’s it’s too late to change now. You already have so much data out there… what’s the point in trying to claw it back now? Personal data has a half life – it’s value decays over time. These data brokers will eventually purge your data because it’s not valuable any more. Also, if move to new email addresses and maybe even a new phone number, this will render a lot of the existing information less valuable because they won’t be able to correlate it with your new persona(s).
But it’s also crucial that you do something. Show these companies that people really do care about privacy and are willing to put time, effort and (yes) even money into protecting it. It also creates a viable market for new companies to create privacy-respecting products and services to compete with the current ones.
Finally, once you have your own house in order, help your loved ones do the same.
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