Replacing Google

3 minute read

For years I've not used most of Google's services, but today as I read an article from Google's former head of International Relations, I was reminded to write an article for alternatives.

In the article I re-read about programs I heard of, like DragonFly and Google's AI office in Beijing, but I also learned of Absher, a program Google hosts for men in Saudi Arabia to track all of the women under their control through the male guardianship system. It's also worth noting that Google has silently removed their "Don't be evil" manta.

Anyway, if you're looking for alternatives to Google, here are my privacy centric alternative recommendations.

Search

There are several alternative search engines, such as searx and duckduckgo, but it's really hard to create as effective results as Google has done, so my recommendation is startpage.com. They give you Google results, without providing your personal information to Google and/or their ad network. They have an additional awesome service that with each result they offer an "anonymous view" which means that if you click that, startpage themselves pulls that website into startpage, so your browser never even touches that remote webserver. This means whoever owns that website never knows you read that website, they only know someone at startpage read that website. If you want to transition to startpage or any alternative search engine, make sure you also configure it to be used in the URL bar of your browser.

Gmail (Free email)

There are three main alternatives to gmail, tutanota, mailfence, and protonmail. As of writing this, protonmail doesn't take cryptocurrency payments where tutanota does, allowing anonymity in payments, but on the other hand, protonmail just launched an encrypted calendar to compete with google calendar and it also has an iOS client. If you're willing to pay, posteo is quite popular at only one euro per month

Chrome (Web browser)

The most popular privacy based alternative to Chrome web browser is Mozilla's Firefox, and the less popular but even more privacy centric version waterfox -- but if you want real privacy you should be using tor browser. In terms of browsers, it's worth noting that "privacy mode" or "private window" only protects your privacy from your spouse or parents, not your tracks on the internet, and it should also be noted that if you install a plugin in your browser, the developer of that plugin can log every website you visit with that browser, so trust them sparingly.

Google Play Store (Android)

If you use Android, Google play store collects and shares a lot of information, so you might want to try f-droid instead, which only allows open source applications. If you're an advanced user who's also rooted their Android phone, check out adaway and afwall+.

Android

While on the subject of Android, there are Android alternatives, but you likely need to be an advanced techy or know and trust one, to get these installed. Rattlesnake OS (if you have a Pixel), LineageOS, Replicant, and e, and sailfish are worth checking out.

Google Maps

This app is hard to beat, and obviously your location and travel patterns are incredibly valuable, so some alternatives worth trying are open street maps which has mobile apps (fdroid uses OSM and allows offline mode!), and here we go.

Google Keep

I've been very happy with Joplin.

Google Hangouts

While there are no chat clients I recommend more than Signal or Wire, Mattermost is showing some promise as a privacy centric Slack alternative, especially when integrated with idvpn.ca, and in terms of metadata resistance (which none of the above offer), it's worth following the progress of cwtch.im.

Google Docs and Drive

One of the coolest apps out there right now is Nextcloud, it's feature rich and offers an app store, but it requires advanced knowledge to self host. If you're looking for a privacy centric host to host a copy for you, reach out to me through onedaywebsite.ca and I'll see if I can't sort you out.

Google Home

Rhasspy also requires advanced technical skill to use, but it's great to see an open source, privacy centric alternative in this space.

While there are a lot of other popular Google services that have privacy centric and open source alternatives, I think I've covered the most popular, and will update this article or reference it based on demand.