I have always treated the internet as essentially public. Despite the privacy policies of websites I use, I make assumptions that any tweet, any Facebook post or comment, any entry on my blog or the like is completely public. This is a policy based upon equal parts common sense, paranoia and seeing friends find out the hard way that their tweets were not as private as they’d thought. Google recently announced the coming of an updated privacy policy. I was a bit upset, but I shrugged it off. A few days later the Wall Street Journal published a report that Google did a bit of technological trickery to track users even if the user had blocked such tracking. This seemed to be crossing an ethical line, and I couldn’t just shrug it off.

There is an old saying I heard somewhere: if you’re not paying for something, you’re being sold.

It should be made clear that Google’s search, Analytics software and email services are top-notch, and I believe they deserve to be compensated. I regret that no one at the company seems to have figured out how to make money, except through advertising. I currently pay cold, hard cash for my email service, hosting, even the content management system running this site. I (and probably many others like me) would certainly pay a yearly fee to Google to take ads and tracking off my search results, however that’s not an option. Or at least allow me to not tie what I see on YouTube to messages I’ve sent to my wife through Gmail.

Advertising companies have long made a lot of money from knowing who people are and what they like. For example, CBS knows certain things about the audience of Late Night with David Letterman. They know that it’s primarily male, with a median age of 54. What CBS does not know, is about the individuals watching. CBS doesn’t know about me.

Principles being principles, I decided to stop using Google where there is a suitable alternative.

The nagging feeling that I use Google for everything is all that held me back (building loyalty instead dependency is a subject for another article). But the thought of becoming even more dependent certainly encouraged my leaving.

The first thing I did was get my personal email off Google. A few years ago, I started routing my pikemurdy email through Google’s servers. I did this for reliability and spam filtering. This was my hardest decision. But I backed up my email, and changed my mx records and now host it elsewhere.

Next came Google Docs. I’ve never been a heavy user of Docs, because Google Docs offers very little, except that it can be accessed through a web browser. Numbers, Excel and Pages work much better. I converted the few spreadsheets I had to files and placed them in my Dropbox folder. Yes, I know about iCloud syncing of Pages and Excel, but with Dropbox what’s the point?

I then visited google.com/history and deleted my browsing history, and my Google+ account. To double check everything, I visited (and I highly recommend you do the same thing) the dashboard.

For RSS reading, I decided to return with my old favorite, NetNewsWire. Unfortunately, the only way to sync the feeds between devices is to use Google, so I would have to make do without synchronization. But I can probably live with this.

I switched my default search engine to DuckDuckGo.com, chosen because of their honest privacy policy. At this point I realized that Google was, in fact, not as essential to my life as I had thought. This was easy.

No Google at all?

All that I have left that I use is Google Analytics, this is tied to a secondary Gmail account. This is not my pikemurdy account which I use as my primary email. I have a secondary account which I believe still has a Google+ profile, but I’ve only logged in once. I’ll eventually zero out that account as much as possible as well.

I still intend to use Google every once in a while. Google needs to make money, and deserves to. I don’t mind seeing ads when I search, use maps, or even when I use the developer tools that Google provides.

What makes me feel queazy is Google using my search history in concert with my email to track my “interests” and advertise and feed content to me based upon the results. The easiest way to prevent this is to simply sign out of Google and never sign back in.

What do I expect to happen?

Nothing. I don’t expect Google to change its privacy policy or even attempt to “keep my business”. I simply expect to not have to sign into Google very much.