Goodbye Google

I haven't had a Google account for some time. I weathered it's insistence on enrolling me in Google+ repeatedly for a while because there were at that time no good alternatives to Google Reader. When Google Reader was discontinued, my only remaining use of any Google service besides search was gone. There are a number of reasons that I have never been a major user of Google services; the primary reason has always been that I just don't need them. Long before I'd begun to take notice of Google's privacy abuses and aggressive (and annoying) roll out of G+ I used Gmail exclusively, but this was replaced with Apple's failed Mobile Me initiative, now succeeded by iCloud.

There were a few reasons I decided that it was in my best interests to close my Google account completely, and I can already predict the responses I'm going to get to these! The Big Deal is that Google makes it's money from leveraging information about me; it's not as though they are actually selling my data (as it's often put), they're actually just facilitating in my being more 'accurately' targeted by their real customers the advertisers. I don't have any particular philosophical objection to this as a business plan, but I dislike seeing ads pasted in my apps and on my internet. Apple (who's competing services I do make extensive use of) run iAds – but I never see them, and this is because Apple's top line comes from hardware sales. I simply do not see grounds for the equation of Google's interest in my data and Apple's interest in my data.

I simply prefer not to be 'sold on', so I'm going to take the option to pay up-front myself.

G+ has also been an issue for me. On more than one occasion I've had comments about "I thought you quit G+" only to discover that Google interpreted my following of a friend's link to the network as my express intention to sign up for the service. No thank you. I don't trust Google any more; there have been too many instances of them intentionally doing some shady things (illegally collecting wi-fi data throughout Europe, fudging their privacy policies) on an apologies-are-easier-than-permission basis.

After all this is said and done though, and even a couple of years or so of being account-free, I still use Google search, and they still collect data on me (they actually will always collect data on me as friends still use Google services). I can limit this however, and I can reduce my 'Google footprint' by not engaging with them directly, at least most of the time. The point of resistance is, ironically, my iPhone. Safari at present has a handful of default search options: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Google is simply the best search engine out of the three.

With the launch of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite this year however another search engine, DuckDuckGo is being added to that list. DDG is a competent search engine, but it'll also make anonymised Google searches too if you want it to, so there's the best of both worlds if I'm really struggling to find the link I want. From the release of those two OS updates I will effectively be 'Google free' — or as free as I can reasonably get without going to a lot of effort, and I'm simply not that paranoid about my personal information.

This doesn't mean I won't use Google Docs to collaborate with friends, or avoid Gmail correspondence, but I won't deny there's a small element of protest.


Doing things the hard way