Online privacy: Ditch Google

The fact that vast amounts of our personal data is in the hands of huge companies in a distant country is worrisome to say the least. Especially when most of the big players are hell bent on making money by selling our personal data.

Google has gathered enormous amounts of data that we willingly gave to them in exchange for an easier life. From keeping track of all searches, videos watched, places visited and people we take photos with, it is scary how much Google knows. It is probable that we don’t even know the real extent of how much they know about us. It’s time to take back control.

Tell me if you have experienced this: You look at a product on Amazon and later when you are browsing Facebook or Instagram, you see an ad for that EXACT SAME PRODUCT! That, to me, means that almost everything you do online is tracked and we need to take steps to minimize this intrusion.

A common misconception that I used to brush off online security concerns:
I have nothing to hide, let them monitor my online activities.”

But then I came across a compelling argument:
“Just because you have no scars does not mean you should parade around naked.”

Facebook app has to be deleted at all costs. If you absolutely must use Facebook, then use it in a browser.

CONVENIENCE and FREE

Google has indeed made our lives much easier with cross-platform support and good quality services all for free. That free tag is insidious. When you don’t pay for the product, you ARE the product (that is sold to advertisers).

REMOVE ALL GOOGLE APPS

Firstly, remove ALL Google apps from your devices.
It will be difficult. I am yet to find alternatives to Google Photos and Maps. I still use these two, but super rarely.

Phones: Delete unused apps and fiddle with google account settings. Revoke almost every permission. To be honest, it is difficult to completely eliminate Google from Android since, well, it’s their operating system. But we must do all we can to reduce their tracking.

PC: This one is easier, just remove Chrome browser.

ALTERNATIVES

After many experiments, I have settled on the best alternatives I found. All these are free and boast security with measures like encryption. Give them a try.

Browser: Chrome – Brave
Search Engine: Google – Startpage and DuckDuckGo
Operating systems: Android – iOS/others
Calendar: Google Calendar – Stock calendar app on your phone (don’t sign in) and Digical (don’t sign in) Just keep both locally stored.
Note taking: Google Keep – Standard Notes and OneNote (encrypt sections)
Cloud storage: Google Drive – Mega
Email: Gmail – Proton Mail

MAKE DIFFICULT PASSWORDS

Make sure to create super strong passwords that include uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special symbols. If you have difficulty doing this for every separate website, create a super strong password for all accounts and insert site-specific letters (like FB, GM) either at the beginning or at the end or anywhere in the password.

ONLINE BANKING

It goes without saying that you must be most cautious while using Internet Banking. Best to pay cash instead of netbanking/cards.

A few people I know write down all their passwords on paper. Although I will suggest memorizing them, having a backup on paper is safer than a note app which is likely to be read by a smart hacker.

BOTTOM LINE

Stop sharing every little thing about your life on the internet. Use private, closed accounts and allow very selective people access to your posts. If you have to share something, better send it directly to people or groups on a messenger app rather than on social media.

Just stop spending so much time on the internet and you will be better off. Use secure alternatives whenever you have to use it. Just turn off the internet for the most part of your day. Use it selectively as a resource tool, not a compulsive entertainment source.

Image credit: pixabay.com

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