These ethical alternatives will help you de-Google-ify your life, have a calmer and far less intrusive online experience. You’ll be in better control of your energy, with fewer distractions from companies that want to engage you and with more focus on things you care about.
We’re living in the age of surveillance capitalism. The age of excessive data collection and monetization of our actions and behaviors with the aim being to capture our attention, distract us and influence us using personalized advertising.
Google, in particular, has helped build the web as we know it and I’m thankful for their lovely innovations but in recent years they’ve taken several steps too far in the direction against our best interests with the goal to exploit us.
Luckily for us, these intrusive tools now face serious competition from more ethical alternatives. And we have a great deal of personal power and authority to choose these more human-friendly services as our tools of choice. Let’s get started.
Replace Chrome browser with Firefox
You spend most of your day within a browser window and it’s your browser that exposes a lot of your behavioral information to third-parties.
Making Firefox your default browser will severely limit your exposure to the surveillance capitalism. Firefox by default blocks a lot of social media trackers and other third-party trackers. Google, Facebook and others will be prevented from following you around as you browse the web.
A side benefit of this is that not only are the majority of the most intrusive advertisements blocked, but your internet experience is faster, calmer and distraction-free.
Make sure to enable the strict enhanced tracking protection within your Firefox preferences. Tick these boxes in Preferences -> Privacy & Security -> Enhanced Tracking Protection:
Want to learn about all the great Firefox features? Explore my guide on how to switch to Firefox.
Replace Google search with DuckDuckGo
Your searches feed the big data algorithms and help create a more accurate profile of who you are and what you care about.
Making DuckDuckGo your default search engine will allow you to search in peace knowing that things you search for do not help companies sell more intrusive advertisements around your interests. And you’ll be escaping the filter bubble that Google keeps you in by only showing you results they think you want to see.
If you’re using Firefox, it’s simple to make DuckDuckGo your default search engine. Simply select DuckDuckGo in Preferences -> Search -> Default Search Engine.
Pro Tip: Explore DuckDuckGo Bangs. These are shortcuts that take you to search results on other sites. Start your search with !w to search Wikipedia, !r to search Reddit or !osm to search OpenStreetMap. Find the list of all bangs here.
Replace Gmail with ProtonMail
Why let the largest advertising company on the planet have access to your contact list and your email conversations?
Using ProtonMail as your email provider will help you start a clear and fresh inbox which won’t be accessible to hundreds of brands you’ve exposed your email address to over the last decade.
Did you know that many commercial email messages include embedded images and other trackers that identify which emails you open and which links you click on? ProtonMail blocks all of these trackers by default.
There’s no reason to shut down your Gmail straight away. Create your ProtonMail email address and simply start replying to the important conversations in your life from that new address.
Doing this, it will be just a matter of time before you send and receive all your important emails using ProtonMail while you leave the less valuable messages languishing in your old Gmail account.
Replace Google Maps with OpenStreetMap
Your location, your day to day movements and places you spend your time at. They expose very valuable offline data that help complete your online behavioral profile.
Using OpenStreetMap as your default map allows you to find your way around a city without any snooping and advertising. It has no advertising, no tracking and can even be used without being connected to the internet.
You can simply use it in your browser and there are several different mobile apps including OsmAnd which is the one that I use.
Pro Tip: OpenStreetMap is a map you can contribute to. Cannot locate your favorite hangout? Discovered some inaccuracies? Submit the complete and accurate information and make the map better for everyone else.
Replace Hangouts/Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp with Telegram
Facebook is the second-largest advertising company in the world and letting them have access to the people nearest and dearest to you helps them create a more impactful advertising profile of who you are and what you care about.
Using Telegram as your default messenger app will help you have a fun and joyful experience with your friends and family without making yourself a target of commercial messages.
Pro Tip: Your first step with Telegram might be to convince your significant other, your parents, siblings or best friends to give it a shot too. It’s a quick, painless experience and they may even find it superior to the other apps. And they don’t even need to delete the more commercial messengers.
Replace Google/Facebook for news with Feedly
Letting Facebook’s algorithms decide what’s important to you, what’s happening around you and in the world that you should be aware of and what you should pay attention to may not be in your best interests.
Getting your family and friends to stop sharing their pictures and views on Instagram or Facebook may be a hard mountain to climb, but at least getting your news away from these platforms is an easier task.
Using Feedly allows you to get the news that you care about from sources that you trust without being exposed to algorithms that want to maximize your engagement. Feedly also allows you to customize your news reading experience the best way it fits you.
Replace Google Translate with DeepL
Using DeepL is free, can be done completely offline and as someone who uses translators daily, I’d argue that it provides better and more accurate translations than Google Translate. DeepL has a web translator and mobile apps too.
You may prefer other alternatives to some of the tools that I’ve recommended, but my focus was on the most beginner-friendly options. Tools that are a great place for people to start their exploration of a better web.
The steps in this guide are a giant leap towards a better and less intrusive internet experience. They will severely limit your private and personal data from being exposed to the surveillance capitalism.
They will also help you have a more serene and mindful experience without the majority of the most intrusive advertisements and other trackers invading your headspace. Have fun!