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Involuntary Sharing of Information Link to this heading

I went down a journey recently where I finally decided to reduce the amount of information I share with Google. Why? Here’s a post that explains my views decently well.

Breaking Free Link to this heading

My Original Setup Link to this heading

This process was surprisingly annoying, mainly because my life was pretty entrenched in their ecosystem. I used:

  • Email: Gmail (since 2005!)
  • Calendar: Google Calendar
  • Maps: Google Maps (including a bunch of custom lists)
  • Messaging: Google Voice
  • Mobile: Stock Android on my Pixel 6 using Google Play Services
  • Notes: Google Keep
  • Photos: Google Photos
  • Storage: Google Drive (including some sensitive documents…)
  • Videos: YouTube
  • Website: Google Sites with Google Domains
  • and more…

How Much Changed? Link to this heading

Well, after my journey, I’m using significantly fewer of those, but still relying a little bit on Google Drive for sharing documents with others and Gmail for some unimportant email I’d rather not receive at my “main” inbox.

My most critical things no longer flow through Google, but I use Google products as a “spam” sink of sorts. Any email I don’t really care about can go there, and any text messages with people not on Signal (most of my important chats!) are still in Google Voice.

  • Side note: I know SMS is insecure, but the only people I text with Google Voice are iPhone users, with the exception of my brother and two friends, and adopting RCS and using Google Messenger (🙁) to chat with those two alone separately feels…frustrating.

Finding Alternatives Link to this heading

Instead of the above, I now use:

  • Email: Proton Mail (masked via email masking!)
  • Calendar: Proton Calendar, including a shared calendar with my partner.
  • Maps: Here We Go, better collections/lists than Google Maps, sometimes has slightly outdated info
  • Messaging: Signal, an end-to-end encrypted messaging app that works on both iPhone and Android and has a desktop client
  • Mobile: GrapheneOS, an OS based on base/stock Android built with security and privacy from the ground up 1
  • Notes: I use Obsidian these days, and it’s been fantastic. I even set up my website builder to use Obsidian as the editor
  • Photos: I back up to ente.io now
  • Storage: my important files are backed up to Proton Drive, my spreadsheets for personal finance stuff are in Zoho Sheets, but I still have several Google Docs and Google Sheets that were collaborative efforts in my GDrive.
  • Videos: as “wrappers” around YouTube, Invidious on desktop, and NewPipe with SponsorBlock for mobile
  • Website: I’m now using NameCheap as a domain registrar and DNS, GitHub Pages for hosting, and Hugo2 with Markdown as a website builder. Took a little longer to setup, but I prefer it over the Google Sites setup I used to have!

Final Notes Link to this heading

So, how do you deal with the fact that these companies have years, maybe even decades, of information, photos, and other identifying information about you?

This comment chain dives into things well there. Even if you can’t take back the information they have, you can prevent them from gathering even more info in more invasive ways, like biometrics data.

Also, here’s someone else’s post going over a similar trajectory, and they made some pretty similar choices!

  1. Super easy to install on any Pixel phone. I remember installing custom bootloaders, running adb commands, and bricking a device when I tried putting custom ROMs on a phone ten years ago. Now, it was four clicks with no issues. ↩︎

  2. For anyone curious about my Hugo setup, I’m using Hugo Liftoff and Hugo Shortcode Gallery as themes. ↩︎