Degooglefication experiment

2012/01/25 — 7 Comments

In a previous episode of “Privacy Claw-back”, I deleted the contents of and removed my Facebook account. That was kind of hard to do at the time as I wasted a whole lot of time on Facebook – it was really fun reconnecting with old friends.

However, I began to think critically about Facebook. This is where all of the problems come in. Facebook’s creation is a tale of amazing scale, ingenuity and engineering prowess. The dark side of the equation is the unprecedented knowledge that can be gleaned from our data about us. The impulse to use this data improperly is probably impossible to resist.

Google is another can of worms. They did not become the biggest search engine for nothing. The amount of information Google has about you, your spouse, your friends, kids, your preferences, likes, dislikes, where you go, who you talk to, what might ail you, political views – it goes on and on and on.

It is time for me to disconnect from Google. Can I do this and still have a positive internet experience? I hope so. I began this process over a year ago when I switched to a PAID email service, pobox.com. It works pretty good. I am fairly confident my email is not datamined, and the web UI is OK – not the best. (That is what Thunderbird is for). However, I kept my GMail accounts and Google-hosted mail service intact (but idle), just in case.

For search, I switched to DuckDuckGo.com well over a year ago. It has gotten really, really good. I have found myself using Google less and less. I even changed my “urlbar keyword” search in Firefox to use DuckDuckGo. (I occasionally use Bing and Yahoo as well).

Twitter is the only hold-out as I feel like Twitter is “not evil yet”. Perhaps someday Twitter will become a protocol. That, I hope, will be inevitable.

Today, as I read about Google’s new non-opt-out privacy policies, it occurred to me that I really don’t rely on Google anymore, I have slowly freed myself from that dependency. I may yet have issues using certain apps on my Android device and I need to figure that out next. (Yay, Boot2Gecko!).

In the meantime, I have taken this experiment up one notch by adding google.com and http://www.google.com to resolve to my local webserver in /etc/hosts – my machine can no longer reach Google or Facebook. (or Google analytics servers for that matter).

The point is, there are many great internet services out there that you can rely on to handle search, email and social that don’t infringe on your privacy, try them out!

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7 responses to Degooglefication experiment

  1. 

    Here’s a good guide to de-Googling:

    Leave Google Behind

    “This site exists to help users who have made the decision to part ways with Google, and stop relying on it for everything from email to search to chat. There are alternatives out there for every product or service Google offers.”

  2. 

    Agreed on much of this. Altering the HOSTS file is one option… another are extensions such as Adblock Plus or Ghostery… but shouldn’t browsers more easily expose cross-site tracking bugs and let you whitelist or blacklist them, rather than just bundle all that unrequested third-party content into the page?

    • 

      I also use Adblock and Ghostery – because they are fantastic tools. In this case I want to make my laptop think there is no Google and no Facebook. It is a scorched earth policy, but a valid way to test the experience of the complete absence of these sites.

      I am not sure if browsers will implement the functionality of Ghostery or Adblock, as those extensions do a pretty good job as is.

  3. 
    Oliver Naumann 2012/01/26 at 01:11

    Congratulations on your decision!

    I’m using an eclectic and probably not very efficient mix of HOSTS and ABP, mostly because I’m too lazy to enter the large and ever increasing number of subdomains into the HOSTS file. For ABP:

    .google.
    .google-analytics.
    .doubleclick.
    ||feedburner.com^
    ||gmodules.com^
    ||gstatic.com^
    ||googleadservices.com^
    ||googlesyndication.com^
    ||googletagservices.com^
    ||googleusercontent.com^
    ||youtube.com^
    ||youtube-nocookie.com^
    ||ytimg.com^
    http://pagead2. *

    (* This is from back when I was still using filter subscriptions. It’s probably superfluous, since the googlesyndication one should catch them, but I don’t know.)

    The HOSTS file has:

    127.0.0.1 googleapis.com
    127.0.0.1 ajax.googleapis.com
    127.0.0.1 fonts.googleapis.com

    This is important if you want to replicate the Google Libraries API locally. If you don’t, countless websites stop working, including Twitter and, ironically, Facebook et al.’s recent focusontheuser.com.

  4. 

    If you ever *do* want an alternative to Twitter, http://identi.ca is a public installation of the open-source StatusNet software, which offers federated social-network interaction via the OStatus protocol. There’s even a Mozilla-specific installation available at http://mozilla.status.net.

  5. 

    Maybe DDG is good for searching English sites but is unusable with other languages…

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