De-Googlification

If it's free, YOU are the product.

In this article, I describe my way of dealing with this problem in the context of Google and it's services.

en 6 May 2020
Reading time: 6 minutes
Privacy

For me, the deal (= my data for Google's services) was no longer acceptable and so I decided to stop using Google services where possible or use Google's product anonymously where I was not able to find an alternative.

And btw, the word "De-Googlification" actually exists 🙃.

This article describes my way, based on my use-cases and my problems. Your context may be different. See the "Sources and references" chapter for more or just ask me . I'll be happy to hear about your use-cases, comments, tips, and feedback.

DISCLAIMER: There is no affiliation between me and any service or app recommend in this article. I do so solely because I use them and I am happy with their product.

Identity Provider (Login via Google)

This is an easy step to start with. The alternative here is to use a good old username and password. Using a password manager (like KeePass) makes this practice secure without losing comfort.

Authenticator

This one is simple as well. Several apps easily replace this service. I have chosen Free OTP+ because it's open-source and is available on F-Droid (Google Play store alternative with free and open-source applications).

Browser

In the case of the browser, there are multiple options.

  1. There is DuckDuckGo Browser for mobile phones. It is a minimalistic, open-source, and privacy-focused browser. I use this as my primary browser for all the cases where I don't want to keep a session. The philosophy of this browser is that you burn all data very often by the "Fire Button" that clears all your tabs and data with one tap.
  2. The next option is the privacy-focused Chromium fork Brave. I chose this one for desktop and as the second browser on my Android phone.
  3. In case you don't want to experiment with Brave there is always good old friend Firefox.

Search engine

The next step is migration to DuckDuckGo Search. It works quite well in 95% of cases. However, the loss of personalized search is quite a shock. I was able to embrace this change only after I have learned that I can fall back to Google adding !g to the search query. It makes you think twice before giving that query to Google but it's still easy enough to not make you any trouble.

Cloud Drive

I end up using Keybase because it's easy to use and doesn't require hard setup. In the future, I may migrate to self-hosted Nextcloud.

Email

Next in a line is the email service. I replaced Gmail with ProtonMail. It has some minor UI issues in comparison with Gmail, but as I try to use email as little as possible it's not a big problem.

This change brings the challenge of changing an email at all accounts where Gmail was used.

This step takes some time and it is the most painful part of the De-Googlification process. I had to go through all accounts of all the important services that I use and had to replace the Google email with my ProtonMail email. I have also deleted a lot of no longer relevant accounts in the process.

Maps

Google Maps are really hard to replace, but the important thing is, that they can be used without Google account and they work on Android phones without Google Play services.

I mainly use those alternatives:

  • Mapy.cz are great even worldwide (especially If you like hiking those maps are awesome). They helped me a lot world-wide from the Alps and Iceland to Bali.
  • OpenStreetMap with Android app OsmAnd~

And I keep Google Maps only as a fallback.

Video Sharing

For me replacing Youtube was in principle impossible. There are so many good content creators (check my list of scientific channels).

To disconnect myself from Google (to stop providing my data to Google) I replaced the Google Youtube app with NewPipe. NewPipe is open-source available via F-Droid. I have been using this app before because it supports audio-only video playing and video downloading. The final step was to just export all subscriptions from Youtube, import them to NewPipe, and then back up NewPipe export in Git.

Sadly, I was not able to find any useful alternative for the desktop. Hopefully, there will be a NewPipe desktop app one day.

Last tip is invidio.us a Youtube proxy allows you to browse videos even they are somehow restricted.

Phone (OS)

De-Googlification of the Android phone is a bigger topic and deserved its own article.

Calendar & Contacts

I realized, that I use a calendar exclusively from my phone and it is a very similar situation with my contact list. I need to access my contacts only from the phone, and I need browser/desktop access only as a backup solution.

I chose the Etar app and I sync data to EteSync. For 2$ (of course, paid in Bitcoin) a month they offer end-to-end encrypted, tamper-proof journals to store contacts, calendars, and todos. EteSync also offers web client so in some edge-case, I can access my data without my phone.

External Calendars

DAVx5 can be used for synchronization with external Google Calendar (for example the company's).

To setup it:

  1. Base URL is https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/your.email@company.com/events/.
  2. Option "allow less secure apps" needs to be enabled.

ICSx5 can be used for synchronization with external ICS links (for example Facebook Events).

Translator

Google Translator was impossible to replace for me. But it can be used anonymously and the mobile app works without Google Play services.

Docs

I use simply good old LibreOffice and I synchronize my documents via Keybase.

When I need to create a collaborative document I use CryptPad. It offers quite a complete set of features, it is open-source and they claim zero-knowledge.

Final step

And that's it. The last two steps are




It's over it's finally over.

Conclusion

I was able to delete my Google account and disconnect myself from Google. I was also able to find an alternative solution to replace most of the Google services without sacrificing comfort. The only Google services I was not able to replace are Youtube, Translator, and partially Maps.

For Youtube, the issue is that content creators stick to Youtube and unless they start to migrate to alternatives like DTube it won't be possible to stop using Youtube any time soon.

Translator covers nearly all languages and it is extremely easy to use. I was not able to find a suitable alternative. The best option I have found is DeepL but it misses languages and also it has no Android app.

I still keep Maps mainly because of reviews and also as a backup for finding public transports in foreign cities.

Sources and references

  1. Ako na bezpečnejšie prehliadanie webu: Nový Brave prehliadač
  2. KOFEIN.TECH | 0x01 - DE-GOOGLOVANIE
  3. NewPipe Issue on GitHub: Windows/Linux/Mac/Desktop Version?
  4. No More Google
  5. CHRÁŇTE SVOJE DÁTA: ODSTRIHNITE SA OD GOOGLE SLUŽIEB!
  6. Alternatives to Google Products
  7. Bitfire Forums: caldav sync with google doesnt work anymore
  8. Reddit: Google Alternatives huge list restore your privacy
  9. Degoogle Reddit

Edits

  • Added: DAVx5 as an option to access the company's Google Calendar (Thu Apr 28 05:16 2020 +0100)
  • Added: CryptoPad as Google Docs alternative (Wed Apr 29 04:19 2020 +0100)
  • Added: ICSx5 to import Facebook Events and other ICS files/links (Wed May 27 14:09 2020 +0100)
  • Added: Degoogle Reddit links (Thr May 28 00:35 2020 +0100)
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