My journey in (almost completely) degoogling my life, part 1

In the past few years it has become more and more obvious that big tech companies – most notable Google – own more and more of our information without us explicitly giving consent at any point. This is pushing people to move over to alternative solutions. The first obvious one is Apple. And although Apple seems to take security and privacy seriously, there is no guarantee that it will stay like this in the future.

These posts are not supposed to be tutorials, just a small journal of my journey and an introduction for you to which steps you can follow in order to de-google your digital life.

So I put myself down a path of completely stripping off Google's services from my life, up to the point that now I only use an email occasionally and still watch you tube on their website for certain things.

I started off with my phone. Android is an open source project, maintained mainly by Google. On top of Android, Google puts Google Play Services, which handle things like incoming notifications for all apps, payments, offer google maps API for all other apps and other similar services. Getting AOSP, or an AOSP based operating system to replace your Google Android operating system requires some technical knowledge and is highly conditioned to the exact phone model you own.

One can use Android open source (AOSP) on some phones and miss out on Google Play and Google Play services. What is left to use / do then? Happily, F-droid is a completely open source Google Play alternative which offers open source apps created by developers who believe that open source should be the way to go.

Before changing the operating system, I installed F-droid on my phone. Google Play does not allow F-droid to be present on their store because it is an alternative app store, so we can't allow competitors on there, now can we? So download the f-droid apk from their website, then install it by allowing your browser to install third party apps. F-droid has an antiquated look and its search function is pure trash. Both of this aspects have fixes in the works, but this is months down the line. To explore app alternatives, feel free to have a look or ask questions down at /r/fdroid and /r/degoogle, alongside searching on the f-droid app itself.

To get you started, look at NewPipe – You Tube front end which requires no login but still allows you to subscribe (locally) and has more features than Google's client. Twidere is a good twitter and mastodon client, Twire is a Twitch client, Slide for reddit and the list goes on and on. I've started by exploring F-droid and its apps for a month or two before making the jump to the next major step.

Open source alternatives are usually lacking in some features compared to their more popular, corporate backed counterparts, so there will be compromises to be done by you, on your part, both when it comes to you letting some feature go or you using a closed source app or service because you need a certain feature, despite the fact that you know that the company is using your data. The key, in my opinion is for the user to be completely aware that the product or service they are using in not open source and, despite it not costing any money, the user does pay with their data. Using open source apps and alternatives will not have advertising, which greatly helps with making users aware of how they are in fact the product which large companies use to make money, and not the benefactors of a free service / app. Try it out, get some open alternatives running alongside the ones you would normally use and see for yourself how it benefits you.

In the next post, I will be going through changing the operating system from Google's Android to and AOSP version of Android and all of the caveats this comes with.

Let me know what you think on mastodon