The great deGoogling - part 1

(the bit where I look at the journey ahead)

Hi, I’m in a process of trying to deGoogle, and I thought I would try and chronicle my steps along the way.

A few bits of context to start so you understand where I am coming from: I’m pretty much an ordinary user; so although I have some general interest in tech topics, I rely on others for technical advice. In terms of the /e/ project, I’m part of the group waiting until a phone can come pre-loaded. Second, this my personal challenge is focused just on Google. I have no Apple products or accounts, and I’m not into social media, so it’s nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter. I know others have a much more difficult journey than I to digital autonomy. Third, my work IT doesn’t cross over with my personal IT. Fourth, my phone is Android, and my home computer runs Windows. Fifth, I don’t have anything special to hide, but I don’t like the direction that data-profiling is heading; I’m keen to head towards if not data independence, then at least a greater degree of autonomy.

Reading /e/-related and other material over the last year has made me realize at how many different levels data about me is being collected by Google. I can either trust them to not be evil, or I can start to untangle the web I find myself in. I realize I might not get totally free, but at least I can have a go - I may not be able to erase it, but I can do things to reduce my digital footprint going forward.

As I have weighed up deGoogling, I recognize how entrenched I am in the system, and I can see that it’s going to take time to unpick it all. I use a Samsung Android phone, multiple Google accounts both as IDs for different devices and for gmail, google docs and drive storage. My primary email is with an old internet provider, but routed through the gmail interface, and all my sent mail has been through gmail for the last 5 or so years. Google currently manages my Contacts and my Calendar. Chrome has been my default browser for years, although I’ve never gone the ‘signed in’ route there. I use Google Search and Maps, and have quite a library of Google Books. And these components all work together so well for me. And, this is just the ‘surface level’ involvement, let alone the less visible googly things that I am told are happening under the hood.

People that I have spoken to about the /e/ project are often just resigned to their loss of independence. Greater people than I have tried to free themselves from these shackles without success. If this journey of mine ends in success these posts will hopefully provide a point of guidance for the millions of other people currently in the same situation. And if it fails, perhaps you will by reading see where I have gone wrong.

When I look at all this I wonder how I got to this point of being so thoroughly entrenched in a company that I have never physically bought anything from. In the digital age, how did I entrust so much in one place? That’s what I’ll do next - Part 2 (the bit where I wonder how I got here).



thank you for your detailed contribution which I am enthusiastic about

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Russell, welcome. You are in a far better state of mind than many people, being open to other options and aware of your current state is where the journey begins!

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While I’m glad to see the technical progress that is being made on /e/, its the human challenge that I think remains as its biggest hurdle. I can’t contribute much technically, but maybe I can help others along the journey

You are right, it is a journey. Awareness is the first step. Using alternatives to Google products is second. There are plenty now. But since Google is in nearly all apps and websites with Analytics, Firebase, for example, entirely getting rid of Google is impossible at the moment. Even in iTunes (Apple) apps Google is working. For years Google has promoted its products in an evangelistic way, because it has a holy mission. You can hear/see their missionaires talking with a big smile and shining eyes on meetings. And ‘giving away’ so many products for ‘free’.
In de the US the Open Markets Institute (Barry C. Lynn) is working on antitrust, like Margarethe Vestager of the EU Commission. Open Markets Institute wants to dismantle Google. This happened before in the US with Standard Oil. But it will take a long time before this is going to happen.
In the meantime we have to build awareness and find alternatives.