Migrating from Google: a progress report

I previously wrote about my pent-up disdain for being tracked by Google and social media services, deciding that it’s no longer worth the free access and associated conveniences in exchange for sacrificing privacy.

In response, I declared my intentions to greatly reduce my reliance on some Google products. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far.

Web browser

  • I’ve followed the guidelines in this very informative article on moving away from Chrome as my go-to browser.
  • I now use Firefox with privacy settings activated, particularly to prevent cross-site tracking. Firefox is only used to directly access sites for which I have a login account, and never for casual web usage. It’s the browser I’ll turn to for my bank and investment accounts, online news subscriptions, and other sites requiring a login. Websites are generally accessed via bookmarks to avoid doing a web search. And speaking of…
  • Firefox is not to be used for web searches – in order to minimize the possibility of being tracked. Just in case that ever happens, I’ve set the default search engine to the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo (which supposedly does not track you like Google).
  • For “everyday” web browsing, including search engine usage, I turn to Brave, known for its strong privacy measures to prevent unauthorized data collection. Additionally, I’ll only use Brave in its private mode, preventing websites from placing cookies in my browser. It is only under these circumstances that I feel reasonably comfortable with freely accessing Google search.
Screen of Brave browser in private mode
Brave browser in private mode

Now, it’s important to note that completely abandoning Chrome is difficult, especially if you do web development. Therefore, I continue to use Chrome for the following:

  • Local testing of my web content creations
  • Using the Chrome developer tools to debug web development issues (admittedly, this is a fabulous resource)
  • Experimenting with the latest web features and capabilities – since Chrome tends to be at the forefront of supporting them, well before other browsers
  • Continual refinements and improvements to my blog, via a local instance of WordPress on my computer
  • Certain websites do not function properly on other browsers

Here’s the kicker: if I need to so some research around the web in relation to HTML, CSS, WordPress, etc., I do this using Brave in private mode, and NOT within Chrome! Otherwise, what’s the point in taking all these measures?

But wait! Isn’t Google about to add more privacy features to Chrome?

It’s true – Google did recently make a pretty stunning announcement that it was going to prevent unauthorized cross-site user tracking through cookies and what’s known as fingerprinting (tracking you through your browser and/or device’s identity information). This would put Chrome on par with Brave and Safari, among others.

But really, we’re not fools. They’re intending for this to prevent third parties from tracking us, but there’s still nothing to prevent Google themselves from collecting data and following Chrome users across the web (and potentially into other Google platforms).

Email

The next step for me is to transition from Gmail to a private email provider. The process is going to be somewhat more involved, and unlike the browser mirgration, there will be a monthly or yearly monetary cost.

I’ve decided to sign up with Fastmail. I’ll have to go through the procedure to register my perrysun.com domain with them for email. Then, I will bring over my archived folders and messages from Gmail. The final step will be to create forwarding instructions on Gmail to send over to my Fastmail account.

Fastmail email service can be a viable alternative to Gmail.

Did you know that with Gmail, you cannot create a folder named Purchases? I found out the reason, and it’s pretty sneaky: Unbeknownst to us, Google keeps track of your emails relating to purchase transactions, and they’re kept within a specific repository called Purchases. It’s also not easy to delete this information, unfortunately.

Yet another validation for my rationale to take control over my services – and a stark reminder that free stuff can come at an undesirable cost.