How To De-Google Your Life (Free Full Tutorial) - Off-Grid

How To De-Google Your Life (Free Full Tutorial)

How To De-Google Your Life


“We’re living in the age of surveillance capitalism: The age of excessive data collection and monetization of our actions and behaviors” – Marko Saric, co-founder,

“Google’s business model is very much based on never dealing with a human… you can make them real money, you can have over a million subscribers… and there’s no-one you can deal with.” – Louis Rossmann.

“We don’t collect or share your personal information. Ever. There’s literally no data about you on our servers. None. We can’t profile you, and we can’t be forced to hand over your data to authorities, simply because we don’t have any data to hand over.” –

I believe in freedom of choice. Fed up with Google? Sick of surveillance capitalism? Then I have good news for you. You can unplug. There is no law that says you are required to use Google anything – and there are now fantastic alternatives; which is how the internet was always supposed to be, wasn’t it? It was never meant to be a top-heavy structure with a handful of ultrabillionaire overlords controlling what people see, read, learn, say, buy and think. What the heck happened??

There are very many people now who are extremely fed up with “Big Tech” and some of their frankly rather odious and even monopolistic policies in areas such as data harvesting, user tracking and censorship – yet people have continued to utilize the tech giants’ services, partly because of a perceived or actual lack of viable alternatives.

Many people were also simply unaware of how pervasive and powerful big tech’s influence has become in the past few years. It’s only when you decide to unplug that you learn just how deeply they have their hooks in you. However people are getting hip to the game in big numbers now and as the saying goes, the jig is up.

When companies – any companies – start to think of themselves as more important than their customers, and cease to put the customer first with integrity, value and service – then this creates space for new companies to innovate and disrupt. At that point, it is only a matter of time before something better comes along and outplays the behemoth that has lost its bearings and its sense of what it truly means to do good business. We are now at that tipping point. We have critical mass. And when people jump ships on the internet… things can happen really fast. Remember Myspace? They were the biggest once too; where are they now?

It’s interesting and timely to learn that as I write, is experiencing temporary outage due to 30m+ new subscribers in the past week overwhelming their servers. This is happening right now!

I’d like to think that Big Tech is in the middle of learning a hard lesson about what happens when you crap on your customers. You think you are too good for us Google? You think we are now the product and not the consumer? Think we should not be permitted the freedom to share ideas and opinions as we please? Think we need you more than you need us? Think we cannot escape your clutches?

Ok, bye!

I’m amazed by the quality and the “good vibes” of some of the alternatives that are now coming up like roses through the cracks in the concrete. Really cool companies! It’s like a sweet breath of fresh air after climbing out of a murky dungeon; like waking up from a bad dream and thinking “My God, where was I then?” It sure feels like that… and it was indeed a very bad dream. You will awake now… 😉

This is a big tutorial as there are a lot of Google services. I wanted to get this posted asap and will continue to add sections as I can. Please let me know in comments if there is anything else you would like me to cover, or any other recommendations you have for alternative services.

Alternatives To Google Search

There are some really cool alternative search engines now. Two in particular have jumped out: Startpage and DuckDuckGo.

Startpage bill themselves as “Zero saving, sharing, or selling your search data – No third party trackers or cookies like other search engines – Un-profiled search results – Browse other sites in complete privacy with Anonymous View.”

Startpage does however use Google’s search engine; but they strip out the profiling and tracking. Startpage is thus essentially “Google-like” in terms of its search results, but without all the stuff that you would not want it to have; although I still question whether I want to fatten Google’s wallet. So if you are a “purist” then use another search engine like DuckDuckGo, which also has great privacy features and does not collect any personal information – but in my opinion sometimes seems to deliver slightly inferior search results in some searches.

I tested both Startpage and DuckDuckGo using Waterfox Browser with the “about:preferences#privacy” panel open in another window. This enables you to see any cookies that are dropped, as they are dropped. Clear out any cookies, then load the page you want to review and you can see exactly what cookies are being sent.

Sure enough, neither Startpage nor DuckDuckGo sent any cookies at all; so I can confirm that my experience correlated with their claim. Full marks.

A couple of further ‘user notes’ – Startpage seems to have trouble with “exact phrase” searching using inverted commas. Also its result pages don’t generate a unique URL so I can’t create a hyperlink to a search result in the way I can to DuckDuckGo and others.

To learn more about why you might wish to switch, DuckDuckGo has a fantastic article What Does Google Know About Me? which is absolutely worth a read.

Alternatives To Google Chrome

There are very many good browsers now with good security and privacy. Good options include Brave and Firefox.

Many people are concerned about Chrome’s user privacy and data policies. The last straw for me, however, was when I observed how much of my CPU Chrome was hogging. Literally maxing out a powerful 12-core Mac Pro. Switching to other browsers, I was astonished to see my CPU use dropped from 90-something percent down to a few percent. Right now I have around 200 tabs open in Firefox, Brave and Waterfox (yes really) and my CPU usage is 2.95%. Why did Chrome need 95% of my processor?? If Firefox can do it with 2%, why does Chrome need to be using massive computational power just to keep tabs open? It doesn’t. Forming wildly speculative theories in my mind that Chrome is either collecting data on a scale that would only be useful to an advanced alien civilization; some 1984-like scenario; or is cryptomining on the quiet using half the world’s computers to accumulate half the world’s Bitcoin without people knowing… I binned it from all my machines and will never look back. Life is better now.

Removing Google Chrome completely from your device is a bit complicated because Chrome installs ‘bits of itself’ all over your system and you need to flush these out. There are tutorials out there for “How to remove Chrome completely” and I have linked a search result to help you find these. Documenting them in full would get long and detailed because the process is different on different devices – and it’s already been done!

Alternatives To Google Analytics

For website owners / bloggers: Google Analytics is now notorious for its user tracking. It’s also something of a heavyweight app that may slow websites down, which is not ideal.

Plausible have created a very user friendly analytics platform that is lightweight and has MUCH better privacy. It does not send cookies of ANY kind to website visitors. Highly recommended! This in turn makes your privacy policy requirements much simpler and not only will those nagging fears over GDPR will haunt you less, but you don’t have to throw your website’s visitors under the bus for the privilege of learning which of your web pages is getting the best response and traffic, which is all you really wanted to know anyway! Just that is worth the price of admission. It turns out that Plausible delivers all the data most webmasters could ever need. Check out their Data Policy.

“The goal of Plausible is to track overall trends in your website traffic, it is not to track individual visitors. We don’t use cookies, we don’t generate any persistent identifiers and we don’t collect or store any personal or identifiable data. All of the data that we do collect is aggregated data only and it has no personal information.”

I was already sold after I read that… but after less than an hour of using it I was totally convinced and commenced the process of installing it on my 20+ websites. I wrote a question to their support and got a super fast response from one of the co-founders, who is totally cool. We ended up having a great chat. All good vibes. Plausible is not freeware, but has a 30 day free trial and it’s inexpensive. When you think deeply about the “hidden cost of free”, it makes sense.

Alternatives To Gmail

This one is easy: Protonmail. They have great security and privacy. Been using Protonmail now for many months and it’s been a smooth ride! The biggest challenge with regard to making this switch is that it is time-consuming to go into all your various online accounts and update your email address. It’s a good time to update your passwords while you are at it! I would advise to open the new Protonmail but leave your Gmail open for several weeks so that you can catch messages from “stray” contacts and services that you did not manage to update the email address. Another option is to set up a forwarder within Gmail and reroute all the messages to your Protonmail for the time being. But you will still need to update all your contacts so that you can ditch Gmail successfully.

Alternatives To Google Docs / Sheets

Found one! Well actually, Marko from Plausible pointed me in the direction of this one: CryptPad. I haven’t dived into this yet and so I can’t give a review but it looks impressive and appears to walk the walk with regards to privacy and document security.

Alternatives To Google Drive

There are numerous ‘cloud storage’ apps now and most of them operate a similar model; with ‘free’ cloud storage for a smaller data capacity (generally around 5 to 10GB) and then once you max that out, you can move on to a (typically massive) storage (often 1 or 2 TB) for a few bucks a month. Famous services of course include iCloud and Dropbox. iCloud is Apple and Dropbox has been the subject of data policy concerns and is of course owned by Microsoft so it’s ‘big tech’. Check out Sync which functions in a very similar fashion on the surface but has good reviews for privacy and security and offers 5GB free. Also PCloud which claims to be ‘Europe’s most secure cloud storage” and offers 10GB free!

Alternatives To Google Translate

DeepL is free, can be used offline as well as online. It has been billed as “more accurate than Google Translate” but that claim, according to Wikipedia at least, is subjective rather than scientifically evaluated. DeepL not only allows you to copy paste text into the box but also allows you to drag and drop .docx and .pptx files for full document translation. I tried translating something from English to French and then back to English again. The French was perfectly legible and the English came back with only about 2 words out of over 100 different, and these were totally acceptable synonyms. It did very well indeed! DeepL functions smoothly and and appears to walk the walk with regards to privacy and document security.

Alternatives To Google Maps

OpenStreetMap has no tracking, no ads and can even be used without an internet connection. It’s a collaborative project that enables contributors to add improvements and corrections.

DuckDuckGo Maps (click the maps tab) is private and can enable you to plan trips by showing you a route overview, distance and travel time, with both driving and walking options.

Alternatives To Youtube

There are numerous video sites out there for content creators and many of these are picking up traction right now. Some have monetization options but it’s early days on that level by the looks of things. Check out LBRY, Vimeo, Bitchute, Odyssey, Rumble.

Alternative Social Media Networks

Try Minds, Gab, Odyssey, Parler (when they get up and running again after the big tech takedown).

Alternatives To Google Hangouts / Other Messaging Apps

There are a stack of privacy-focused messenger apps out there now, including some great ones. Signal is most commonly placed at the top of the pile and experiencing massive surges in demand after the recent censorship fiascoes that have had so many people up in arms. However there are many other options. There is a full tutorial here: Best Secure Instant Messaging Apps for 2021

Alternatives To Google AdSense

This is a big topic. It’s not impossible by any means, but this is a more a tricky service to ditch because AdSense does pay well relative to many other ad providers. On the other hand, hitting them in the wallet is probably the only thing that will cause them to pay attention and stop treating people like shit. Disclosure, I still use AdSense on some of my blogs at the time of writing but moving closer and closer to making the jump. I am beyond fed up of dealing with them. And they might ban me after this post anyway…

If you are a Youtuber, then your only option for in-video ads is AdSense, and this makes up a large portion of many channels’ revenue. This is a sticking point. However there are various problems with AdSense (and with Youtube censorship!) It’s notorious for account bans and demonetization of contrarian / anti-narrative videos.

AdSense also has unbelievably appalling support. It is all but non-existent. The worst support experience of my entire life was with AdSense. Nothing even comes close; not even Bank of America with their torturous binky bonky music that I am convinced is purposely designed to drive you so insane that you hang up. AdSense non-support is on another level entirely. They might as well just cut to the chase and direct you to a web page that says GO AWAY in big letters…

For bloggers / website owners, there are a huge number of options for ad revenue – either from ad networks or from affiliate promotions and of course your own products and services. Some of the better paid ad networks use “header bidding” which allows multiple advertisers to bid on your ad space – however this will often mean AdSense ads (and cookies) once again! Advertising is a huge topic but there are scores of companies that will be glad to have your business. You will only find the best ads by testing and measuring results, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Go with the one(s) that generate the best revenue-per-visitor metrics with minimal impact on user experience.

Alternatives To Google Hardware

The most private and secure phone on the planet, according to The Hated One is GrapheneOS. Ironically, this runs on Google Pixel phones – however (from the GrapheneOS website): “No Google apps or services. GrapheneOS will never include either Google Play services or another implementation of Google services like microG. Those are not part of the Android Open Source Project and are not required for baseline Android compatibility. Apps designed to run on Android rather than only Android with bundled Google apps and services already work on GrapheneOS, so a huge number of both open and closed source apps are already available for it.”.

BTW The Hated One’s YT channel is worth a look. Plenty of in-depth privacy and security focused discussions in the comments and you can learn a lot just by diving in. This rabbit hole goes deep…

Librem makes a range of phones and laptops “designed chip-by-chip, line-by-line, to respect your rights to privacy, security, and freedom.” Librem’s homepage links to PureOS: “PureOS is a fully auditable operating system: you don’t have to trust our word that it respects and protects you—it is independently verifiable by security experts and software developers around the world.”

PinePhone is another name that crops up in these discussions. From their website: “Perhaps you’re in a line of work where security is a must, or a hard-core Linux enthusiast, or perhaps you’ve just got enough of Android and iOS and you’re ready for something else – the PinePhone may be the next Phone for you. Powered by the same Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit SOC used in our popular PINE A64 Single Board Computer, the PinePhone runs mainline Linux as well as anything else you’ll get it to run.”

Here are a few more links to dig into:

Linux Phone vs. De-Googled Android AOSP – Which is better for Privacy?

Privacy. That’s LinuxPhone. True? False?

Android without Google: the /e/ Project blew me away! e is a nonprofit project, backed by the /e/ foundation. Its goal is to provide a compeltely de-googled version of Android. This is in the strictest sense, as anything that might call to Google has been plucked out of the operating system: the google services, app store, default applications, even the time server and DNS have been changed.”

What Did I Miss?

Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to cover it!

Excellent Further Reading:

DuckDuckGo: What Does Google Know About Me?

DuckDuckGo Privacy Blog (lots of good articles) and Privacy Crash Course

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