Google

It’s pretty apparent that Google has the search engine side of the internet on lock, but did you know that they’ve expanded to almost every internet service?

Time to Face the Facts…

It’s pretty apparent that Google has the search engine side of the internet on lock, but did you know that they’ve expanded to almost every internet service? What started with search slowly grew to email, maps, video, smart phones, computers, and even the internet browser itself. You probably don’t even realize everywhere Google has a foothold in your life. Let’s fix that.

Google’s Business Model

With a stake in almost every internet market, it can be tough to find a way to navigate the web without running in to Google, so it’s helpful to identify how they make money. All the way back in 1998, Google started as a simple search service and, to this day, that remains the core of the company. As the internet’s concierge, Google knows anything and everything about who/what/when/where. Google’s knowledge set is a gold mine for the marketing and advertisement industry. It’s with the introduction of advertisement sales in 1999 that Google really took off. Almost all of its services now feed its advertisement base, raking in billions of dollars worldwide every year.

The Big Players

It’s safe to assume that every product Google releases incorporates some sort of user tracking for advertisement purposes, but we’ll touch on the big ones that do the most damage. One thing to keep in mind when reading this post is that a lot of additional privacy violations are made in the name of convenience. “Features” that make your life easier also take away your security.

This post is not against the distribution of advertisements on the web; they’re annoying and intrusive, but keep a lot of services free and can sometimes be useful. This post (and the company in general) is against the surveillance and data collection of everyday citizens for the monetary benefit of a company.

Gmail

When you make a Google account, you get a free email address. Sweet! Not sweet. Here’s a hard-and-fast rule to keep in mind when choosing internet services:

If a service is free, you’re the product.

Why would anybody offer email service to the whole world for free? The operational costs of Gmail is way too much to be brushed aside for a gift to the user.

How does Google make money off of Gmail?

Google scans your emails (even those that you send to Gmail addresses from another email provider) and collects data from them. For example, by scanning your airline purchase confirmation email, they now know that you’re going on a trip next week and can build an itinerary for you. Seems harmless, but you’ll probably get advertisements for airline deals for the rest of summer.

How Do You Leave Gmail?

Easy. Don’t use it. Free to sign up, free to leave. Refer to the Email section of the guide to find alternative services.

Make sure you go and permanently delete your archived emails from Gmail, otherwise they’ve still got a record of everything you’ve sent or received. The default “trash” is just an archive. Empty and delete! If you have emails you need to keep, forward them to another address and delete.

Search

Refer to Search Engines. Long story short: search with DuckDuckGo instead of Google.

Chrome Browser

Refer to Browsers. Google has complete access to what is entering and exiting your computer via the internet.

Youtube

This one is tough. There isn’t a good alternative for Youtube, so if you must use it, use the quarantine method discussed at the end of the Browsers section of the guide. Youtube is basically another search engine, but for a different end-result. By using Youtube, Google now has data on what videos you watch, when you watch them, how long you watch them, and how you respond to them (liking, commenting, watching similar videos, etc.) All this info is used to help advertisers send you “targeted ads”. All this sounds bad, but it’s worth it knowing you’ll be served every new cat video because you watched Nyan Cat once, right? Keep’em confused by not signing into your Google account and not using Chrome.

Maps

Another tough one. If you have an Android phone, Google is constantly tracking where you’re going through GPS and Location Tracking via networks. Add the data you willingly give them every time you type in an address into Google Maps, and they’ve got a record of where you are at any time. Go see for yourself! Open Google Maps and click on ‘Your Timeline’ in the side drawer. All this so they can tell you where you parked your car?

How about when they notice you drive by a particular store on the way home from work everyday? You might see advertisements soon that persuade you to stop and shop.

Alternative

A GPS alternative is OsmAnd, an open source navigation service for iPhone and Android. The learning curve is a little steep, but it’s just as good as Google or Apple Maps. The app is free, with an optional donation/upgrade, due to the fact that it’s publicly developed, free-of-charge, by a group of software developers online.

An even better alternative is a physical map. Read here why this isn’t as crazy and outdated as it sounds!

Others

Real quick, here are other services Google offers and how they siphon your data.

  • Google Drive owns all your files, pictures, videos, whatever you upload to their services. Upload a sensitive picture for safekeeping? They’ve got it for good.
  • Google Assistant/Google Home literally listens in on everything you say, even when you aren’t directly interacting with it. Don’t even mess with this. Be on the lookout for products (TVs, speakers, refrigerators, etc.) that have this functionality built in and try to avoid these products. Same goes for Amazon’s Alexa.
  • Google Calendar knows when you’ll be at certain events or what your daily routine looks like. Use a physical calendar or something more secure (this usually involves spending a little money).
  • Google Hangouts/Voice/Messages processes every video, voice, and text chat that you have. They can read all of it.
  • Google Contacts knows who all your friends are and is able to create a link between what they like and what you like. Ever notice how trends spread through social media nowadays? Google contributes to this.
  • Loads more. You’ll soon get good at seeing through the mirage!

Conclusion

The more you think about it, the more you can see how Google subtly influences the way you live your life. If your whole internet life is tied up in the Google ecosystem, your view of the world is limited to what Google thinks you want to see, and sometimes, what they want you to see. Take your life back, ditch Google.

Congrats! You’re now aware of the dangers that Google poses to your everyday life. With a little hit to convenience, you can protect your data and still use many services that are essential to modern life. It just won’t all be in one place.

Don’t Stop Here

Learn More!

Email

In this section, we’re going to learn about good alternatives to Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail (really?), and other data-leaching email providers. Not sure why to quit using Gmail? Check the Google section of the guide for more info.

Intro

This free security guide is the culmination of 2 years of intensive research into the security risks of the modern digital life.

All the advice in this guide has been personally tested and verified to be accurate.

Search Engines

Need to know the definition of something? Look it up. Looking for the best Italian restaurant in Manhattan? Look it up. You get the picture.