I’ve decided that this year is going to be the year that I try to limit the amount of information I put out onto the Interwebs and hone my social presences and take back my privacy as best as I can. I’m “liking” less, I’m not going to reveal my location and I’m going to try my damnedest to distance myself from a lot of Google products and services.
I understand that to go completely Google-free would require a pretty extensive list of subpar alternatives so I’m starting with the products and services I use the most. First, I have dropped Chrome in favor of Firefox on all of my devices. Taken a small bit to get used to the fox again, but their latest offerings have been working great with only a few glitches.
Arguably the hardest thing to drop was Google Search. Mozilla made the drastic switch to Bing/Yahoo! search as their default search not too long ago but I wanted to finally fully embrace DuckDuckGo because of their mission of real privacy. I have backpedalled on a small handful of occasions and used Google for some searches when I couldn’t get the kind of results I wanted but for the most part, the switch has been quite favorable.
“So Josh, what about that Android Phone of yours? You know that’s a Google product and you’re totes being tracked, right?” Yep, so I decided to ditch my smart phone and go back to a Nokie candy bar dumb phone. Not really, right now I’m not entirely sure what I will do about the phone. At present I run the stock build of Android L on a Nexus 5, it’s about as Google as it comes.
I did switch to Firefox and DuckDuckGo and have went as far as deleting apps that I felt were a bit too intrusive (Facebook and Foursquare in particular). The push notifications about people being near me and all that could be disabled, but I wanted to completely ensure that the options didn’t magically flip back as they often seem to do, at least with Facebook ;)
I plan to explore some aftermarket versions of Android in the near future. I’m sure there are some “tin foil hat” versions of Android out there. Sadly, I also want to keep up with the latest Android so switching firmware may not end up happening.
Gmail and Gtalk are the two things that I probably won’t be able to dump. Email as a whole is something I would love to go back to running myself but the fact is that Google does one helluva job with spam filtering that I haven’t been able to match on my own.
Gtalk has actually been a bit of a pain point for me for a while, that and iCloud messaging. I find that more and more often these days my messages aren’t making it to their recipients and messages from my buds aren’t making it to me. It’s a hard sell to tell everyone that you’re going to be on another platform and they need to switch, but I’m coming to that, especially if the service does a better job of making sure the messages make it to where they are going.
In the past I’ve used the OTR (Off The Record) encryption but it ends up being more of a pain in the ass than anything else. This holds especially true for when you or the person you’re talking to are on a mobile device that doesn not support the encryption. It’s a great concept but falls very short for me in terms of usability.
I’m going to keep looking for ways to increase my privacy in 2015, so if you have any tips, trick or hacks that will help me with this journey, feel free to comment below!