I Stopped Using Google Apps and Services for 5 Months. Here’s Everything I Learnt

5/28/2018

Like it or not, Google is omnipresent today. But about five months ago, I wanted to find out if I could cut Google out of my life. The experiment has been a roller coaster of epic proportions, but in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and the ensuing privacy debate, it’s gone from being a harmless challenge, to an important decision we should all at least consider. Just like Facebook, Google collects massive amount of data. Dig a little into Google’s Privacy settings and you will be staggered to find the amount of data the company collects. Everything - from your Google searches, YouTube history, browsing history on Chrome, voice and audio activity, to your location history - is stored on Google’s servers. While there are ways to opt out of some of these, doing so is tedious and it disables a lot of functionality. With Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Google AdSense, Google Chrome, Google News, and more, Google has a vice-like grip on the Internet. But what’s it like to try and move away from Google entirely? The alternatives to the above services also collect data in some way or the other, but none of them have the same reach or ecosystem as Google. Using different providers limits the data one company can gather on you, which can be a small consolation. Step one was to move on from Search. A combination of Bing and DuckDuckGo has served me impeccably well in the search engine department. DuckDuckGo does not collect even an iota of your data and I found Bing’s Image and Video search to be - surprisingly - a cut above that of Google. Google’s recent controversial decision to remove the ‘view image’ tab from its Image search results has cemented my decision to stick to Bing and DuckDuckGo. There were only occasional instances where I had to switch to Google to look for photos and reviews of certain landmarks. Of course, there is a lot more to the story than just changing search engines, and the bigger challenge is a complete move away from Google’s expansive ecosystem. To that effect, I purged my smartphone of as many Google services as Android would let me - Google Assistant made way for Cortana, Chrome passed on the baton to Firefox,Google Docs was replaced by Word, Google Keyboard was succeeded by Fleksy,Google Play Music made way for Apple Music, and OneDrive took the reins from Google Drive.