Android Without* Google: Where I’m At

Posted on November 15, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google with 45 Comments

Earlier this month, I wrote about a desire that many readers have expressed to use Android and yet limit their exposure to Google. The feedback to this article was all over the map, as one might expect. So I’d like to address that and explain where my head is at.

First of all, if you truly want to eliminate Google from your life, you can’t use Android. And that leaves you with the iPhone, which is a fine choice: Apple’s mobile platform is reliable, stable, and fast, it offers the best apps and content ecosystems, and the devices themselves are beautiful and of high quality. You can’t go wrong with an iPhone.

But that’s not what this article series is about, of course. This is about using Android.

And to be clear, Android has a long list of advantages over the iPhone. These advantages explain why the vast majority of people, worldwide, use Android and not iPhone. Among them, of course, is the ability to customize Android to a degree that is simply not possible on iPhone. And most certainly never will be.

The question, then, becomes one of degree. And of effectiveness: You could remove most Google apps from your phone, disconnect from Google services where possible, and it’s likely—certain—that Google would still be able to track you via your use of Android. Are you willing to accept that? Is it enough to minimize your exposure to Google? Especially when it’s not even clear how effective some of these actions will be.

I don’t know.

Like many of you, I’m concerned about the insidious nature of Google’s sprawling, privacy-invading, advertising-based business model. But like many of you, I’m also resigned to the fact that some Google apps and services are so indispensable that fully eliminating the search giant from my life is impossible. And that leaves an opening for Google to have its way with my privacy.

Does that bother me? It’s a trade-off. The reason I or any other thinking person would willingly use Google apps or services while knowing that the company that makes them is surreptitiously collating all that data in the cloud and building an informed target for advertisers is that those solutions are best-of-breed. It’s the only reason that makes sense. And I’m sorry, but some Google apps and services really are best-of-breed.

The list of Google solutions one can’t live without will vary by person. For me, that list includes Google Maps, Google Photos, and Google Chrome. It also includes Google Inbox, but the company is stupidly killing Inbox in early 2019, so I’ve been looking around for a suitable alternative.

I happen to prefer Google Assistant over other digital personal assistants, and I have made the bet that this platform will win out. So we have Google Home and Smart Display devices in our home, and a variety of Google Chromecast Audio dongles that we use for whole-house audio. We also use Google Wifi, which provides mesh home networking capabilities. So I’m more than a bit in the ecosystem, especially when you look past the phone.

And I also use other Google solutions, like Google Play Music, and of course, the Google phone, messaging, and camera apps on my Pixel. But those are all easily replaced, or at least have non-objectionable non-Google alternatives. I wouldn’t call any of them mission critical. They’re just there. But they’re also little data points for Google. Each informs the company about me in some way and rounds out its profile of me that it provides to advertisers.

In other words, my own efforts to minimize Google on Android will be largely futile. I’m already in the search giant’s back pocket. And I have already seen many examples of how trackers can lead to targeted ads in what seem like nonsensical situations.

So the question for you is this. Given that the very act of using an Android handset guarantees that Google will know something about you, does it still make sense to limit, to the degree that you are comfortable, how much information it gets?

Put more simply, I consider using the Google Play Store—e.g. using “Android”—to be the minimum for this platform. But you have to sign-in with your Google account to the Google Play Store. So even if you skipped the sign-in during the initial phone set up, you will still be signing in. Your Google account will be registered with the handset. And that system-level tracking will be engaged. You can’t stop it.

Can you minimize it? Probably. But this is where we get into an unknowable area because Google has already been proven to ignore user-accessible settings in Android related to tracking. Whether that is malicious or not is unclear. As is whether it’s just the tip of the iceberg: Is Google secretly tracking all kinds of things without or knowledge?

I believe that it is. And I write that as a sane and logical person, not as a conspiracy theorist. It would be naive, given Google’s business model and history, to not believe that it is doing everything it can to build the best-possible profile of its users that it can. To benefit advertisers.

Since writing that first article, I’ve investigated what one can do to minimize Google on an Android handset. Some of it is obvious: You can use alternative apps and services, replace the launcher, replace the keyboard, replace the digital assistant. This is almost still certainly worth discussing. But it doesn’t really cut to the heart of the matter.

No, the central issue is tracking, especially location tracking, but not only location tracking. And I’m just not sure.

This kind of uncertainty is troubling. When I write a book like Windows 10 Field Guide, or smaller and individual tips and how-tos for this website, I’m looking for certainty. For reproducible steps that will work every time. Not for something that “may” work. Hey, you never know.

Removing apps and replacing Google solutions with alternatives is straightforward. It’s a certainty. But disabling Google services and trackers? It may work. Hey, you never know.

So I will keep investigating this. Even with my over-exposure to Google, I’m interested in minimizing where it’s possible and, more important, where it’s meaningful. But this isn’t about me: I also realize that this is of great interest to many readers too. And as always, I’m relying on your feedback to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

What I’m not interested in is partisan nonsense. Alternatives to Android. Not using the Google Play Store. This is about Android, period. What can we do?

 

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Comments (45)

45 responses to “Android Without* Google: Where I’m At”

  1. jaredthegeek

    I absolutely love Google Assistant and I know that's detrimental to any privacy. I also have an iPad that just helps me see how far behind Siri really is. The phone is tracked everywhere is goes by every app that's on it. There is no getting around that for the convenience that the applications provide. If you have a newer vehicle its data is tracked and sold as well. All of our movements are tracked and sold, that would have sounded paranoid a decade ago but its the reality we live in now.

    • Winner

      In reply to jaredthegeek:

      Also keep the bigger perspective:


      Your ISP knows everything you do online.

      So does your cellular carrier.

      They both sell your data. Even the iPhone is no protection

      Apple manages your icloud keys and can access any backed up information.

      Your credit card companies know where and how much you spend with them.

      Your cable company knows what you watch on your settop box.

      If in the U.S., Experian leaked your name, DOB, address, email, and SSN.

      You've probably been the victim of many other security breaches.

      U.S. and other governments are Hoovering up your internet traffic.b


      My conclusion is that Google is the least of my privacy worries.


      • gartenspartan

        In reply to Winner:

        This is a great post and so true. Google at least isn't selling the direct data they gather to third parties if you read their privacy policy. They monetize it for themselves (ie selling relevant ads), but they aren't directly selling it to others like your ISP, Cellular carriers, Credit Bureaus, ETC..


        Anyone providing a service of any kind these days has sensitive information that can be or has been hacked, including Apple (ie iCloud celebrity photo breach).


      • locust infested orchard inc

        In reply to Winner:

        Applying your ludicrous warped logic, every boy, girl, man, and woman on the street know what sausage dangles beneath a mans' waist, similarly everyone knows a woman possesses two hooters/juggs.


        The question to raise is, why hide them, what privacy implications are there for not displaying our assets in full view of the glaring public eye, for it's not exactly a secret ?


        Quite simply, some things are best retained by the owner, and/or not disclosed to the wider World – they are considered private to the individual, else one would be deemed as being licentious, depraved, and promiscuous.


        As an employee, one's renumeration is often a closely guarded secret, yet we all approximately know our fellow colleagues' salary based on pay bands, yet discussion of one's pay is such a taboo.


        Our local physician/GP has all our medical records, and it may be some of that information stored, we alone are aware, yet we trust the medical profession to safeguard the data, and not to divulge any information to anyone, without our prior consent.


        There are several things concerning the retention of personal data. The manner in which it is acquired, whether the data-acquiring entity makes money from our data, whether it sells our data to third-parties, and whether it can be trusted to be 100% transparent in how it retains/uses our data.


        Mainstream banks tend not to sell customers' data, internet service providers do not sell customers' data, but internet tech giants such as Fakebook and Adoogle freely and unashamedly, brazenly abuse our data and make $$$$$ from it.


        It is criminal to say the least, and laws need tightening to ensure these data-harvesting entities are forced to submit to the Laws of the land.


        GDPR is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go any way near, to ensure the hundreds if not thousands or even millions of data violations that occur on a daily basis.


        Now repeat after me, and then write a thousand lines to ensure you truly become recognisant of the perils of personal data being collated en masse by tech behemoths:


        "Thou shall safeguard my personal data to the best of my ability, and thou shall entrust only with those entities who are not obscene data violators. Google is intrinsically evil, and thou shall never have any further dealings with the satanic one.


        Amen."


        Data promiscuity shall and must never be tolerated.

  2. obarthelemy

    I'm not into the whole unGoogle scene, but if I were I'd

    1- Use Firefox and ad/track blocking addonds (uBlock Origin and the EFF's Privacy Badger). That, I do.

    2- make my own privacy VPN based on a Raspberry Pi and PiHole + a VPN. Requires a fast and reliable home connection.

    3- Use as few apps as possible, favor the online version instead. Disable the apps.

    4- Look for substitutes to Google's apps and services. Starting with Owncloud and framapad.org . And Old-school local apps, is QuickOffice still around ? Nokia Here We Go is darn good.

    5- Use Lineage OS instead of Android, and NOT install Google Play, Maybe Amazon's stuff instead, though that's probably not better on the whole, just trading one tracking for another. Generally speaking I'm not sure subsituting one company's apps/cloud for another's makes much sense.

  3. tmikolaj

    I would appreciate, if you could compare some alternatives to Gmail. I would be particularly interested how Outlook.com consumer version stacks up to Gmail, especially when using together with Office 365 (I understand now it includes premium version of Outlook.com?). Is Outlook.com more privacy conscious than Gmail, bearing in mind that Microsoft now wants to follow Apple in their pro-privacy crusade?

  4. jbinaz

    Hope for a miracle and that Windows Phone makes a comeback? :p


    I kid. But I wish there really was another alternative to Google's tracking and Apple's limited customization and control.


    To answer the question, I don't know if there's much you can do but strip as much of the Google invasion away as possible.

  5. cnc123

    Be aware that by enabling Google Assistant all of your search and browsing history is stored by Google if you also use Chrome. Yep. THOSE sites too. Google also tracks your location history by default on Android phones. Not a worthwhile trade, in my opinion.


    This doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach. If you use an alternate assistant (or no assistant) and change some settings, you can at least put yourself in a position where Google *says* they don't track everywhere you go in the real world, everywhere you go on the web and everything you search for.

  6. cayo

    "These advantages explain why the vast majority of people, worldwide, use Android and not iPhone."


    This is not the whole truth. Most people in third world countries just can't afford iPhone and have cheap Android phones as their only choice.

  7. alexiz.kadev

    It seems like if we're living on different planets with Paul.

    On mine Apple is not a worse spy than Google. The same to stability, speed and so on. So as for me I saw no differences in common between two platforms and the only choice that I have is who do I want to spy on me: Apple or Google. So if someone is paranoid enough he should avoid both platforms at least...

  8. ronlw26

    One of the things besides privacy that really pulls my chain and that for some reason I never hear anyone talking about is WHY I/YOU HAVE TO BUY THE PHONE, BUY THE SERVICE TO USE THE PHONE, AGREE TO ALL THEIR DEMANDS BUT YET THEY USE/STEAL ALL YOUR INFORMATION, MAKE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS PER QUARTER AND YET I/YOU DON'T GET ONE STINKING CENT OF THAT MONIES... Now how the hell does that make any sense?

  9. BrianEricFord

    And to be clear, Android has a long list of advantages over the iPhone. These advantages explain why the vast majority of people, worldwide, use Android and not iPhone. Among them, of course, is the ability to customize Android to a degree that is simply not possible on iPhone. And most certainly never will be.


    I believe that Android has a long list of advantages (and disadvantages), but the reason Android is used by the vast majority of people worldwide is because you can buy Android phones at almost any price point, and Apple has never ever sold one in any segment other than the “premium” price point.


    I also believe that the “vast majority” of people who buy an Android phone treat it exactly as they would an iPhone when it comes to customization.



  10. FalseAgent

    I guess the first step to cut down on Google would be to not use a phone they make. Most non-google android phones use their own camera app, launcher app, keyboard app, messages app, and dialer.


    I also think stuff like chromecast has no privacy implications, it just happens to be made by google.


    Photo management/storage can be done with OneDrive - the Windows 10 photos app does the same intelligent tagging that Google Photos does. Alternatively some still do it old school by transferring images via USB. The thing about cloud storage services is that once you're in, it's difficult to switch.


    I think things like the Google Assistant are completely optional things that we can get by without in our lives. But for people who do want an assistant, Google Assistant is pretty much the only one worth using. I don't think any of the assistants - e.g. Alexa, Cortana - give people privacy. Personally I disable the google assistant.



  11. Awhispersecho

    I don't trust Google 1 bit but I use a Galaxy Note that runs Android, obviously I understand I can't get completely away from them. For the most part however, I use apps and services that are not provided by Google.


    I use Outlook, OneDrive, OneNote, and my main email is still provided by MS so my Gmail account strictly exists to allow me to have an Android phone and to use the Play Store. I use Edge, Waze instead of Google Maps and Poweramp as my music player as well as Pocket Casts for my Podcast app.


    I use a combination of Google Assistant and Bixby. The switching back and forth is because at different times they each forget who my contacts are and half the time Google Assistant says it can't be reached or doesn't hear me at all. If Cortana wasn't on life support and had the same hands free features as she did on Windows Phone 3-4 years ago, I would use her. (Why in the hell Google Assistant can't announce and read texts as well as announce and handle phone calls hands free like Cortana baffles my mind). I use whatever the stock messaging and phone apps are on the Note and I still use my Outlook calendar though I can't find a way to get notifications from it.


    Other than that, I go into my Google account or dashboard and delete everything in there every couple of weeks or so. (It's amazing how much they keep, literally every activity, text, call, voice command, location, and on and on. Just incredible). It probably doesn't accomplish anything but it makes me feel better so there's that.


    Obviously my exposure to Google services is pretty limited and yet I know they are still getting everything they need from me simply because this is their phone. Their hands are everywhere. It is what it is. I just do my best to limit their access partly on purpose and partly because I've already been so invested in the apps and services I use that there is no need for me to change.


    Just to add I am thinking of Switching to Firefox as my main browser across all my devices. Edge sync doesn't work at all, the ability to easily manage bookmarks is non existent and Firefox is pretty darn good now.

  12. note-book

    The desire to limit Google's intrusion into our digital lives in part originates from fear in being locked in one ecosystem of services, leading to a monopoly. It also concerns who we are as "digital" citizens, and that means what kind of balance we are prepared to accept with our privacy and, inevitably, how much freedom we are prepared to surrender and to whom.


    I am not too concerned in giving some data to Google for its advertisers. I am worried however on sleepwalking into some monopoly, which is not infrequent in IT, and always bad for consumers. I am even more concerned on the issue that accumulating too many personal data in one place without explicit safeguards leads to very dark developments. Facebook, Twitter and social media in general appear to have been targeted by unscrupulous people that tried to affect not just our lives, but our societies, through manipulation.


    Recent cell phones gather even more information than social media ever did. Location of course, but your typical phone has many more sensors than a GPS.


    The cost of any suggestion must be proportional to the benefit that it brings. And from what Paul says, one reasonable step is not to use all applications by one firm. There's nothing wrong in using some Google apps, and proposing alternatives for at least some will resolve the first part of the problem.


    The second part requires however the ability to exercise some form of control on at least some personal information. Here the solution should be to enable that privacy setting in the Google account... only that there isn't one.


    Paul says that not signing into an account is possible, but still ineffective because of Google Play. So that's the other piece of information needed. Is there an alternative to Play, perhaps Amazon? Or can we find a workaround, like installing apps into an Android PC emulator, and then sideload them into our cell phones? Is there a firmware hack that enables to log out of Google accounts after using Play? What can we do, apart from switching to Apple?


    This is what I would like to know and why. Monopoly and manipulation are the two evils that Android makes possible, and they are both real threats.

  13. wocowboy

    Samsung has announced that they are no longer going to allow the use of "free themes" on their Galaxy line of phones, eliminating them from your device after 14 days, the rationale being that they might interfere with operation of the phone and their new "One" theme. Therefore, the era of unlimited customization for Android is coming to an end, at least for Samgung devices. Personally, I have absolutely no need to change the font, change all the icons, change the launcher, or any of that, the instant after I turn on a brand new phone. I have tried some of these things on a jailbroken iPhone and on Android over the years, as well as used Konfabulator on my old Macs and Window Blinds and all its companion modification apps, and sometimes things just don't turn out well or these modifications produce problems of their own. Through experience I have come to accept that sometimes stock is just the best option.

  14. DBSync

    Paul, instead of Google Chrome use Opera which uses the same Chromium technology but is a little more privacy focused. It also seems to run most Chrome extensions.

  15. dcdevito

    This is a great article, thanks Paul. I feel you're in the same boat many of us. I'd say once a year or so I try to limit Google in my personal computing lifestyle simply because I've (purposely) never invested in any one company over the other. I used to be an "Apple guy" with an iMac, iPad and iPhone - but that didn't last longer than a total of one year, not to mention I hated iOS. I've always tried to balance myself between platforms but it's becoming increasingly difficult to do this nowadays.

    And the reason, in my opinion, is Google Assistant and Google's increasingly-improving smart home strategy. The Google Assistant is expanding my Google use even more than before with my Google Home devices, and so is my family. I have Google Home devices, Chromecast video and audio devices, and an entire Nest home setup (cameras, thermostats and Security system). I'm all in now and you know what? I really like it. It frightens me to no end but the integration is hard to beat. The only non-Google device in my house is my custom-built Windows 10 PC (and my kids' entry level iPad), and it's already starting to feel distant and disconnected from the rest of the house. Perhaps this was Google's plan all along, hard to tell.

    I'm not concerned with the tracking, but I do regularly visit my Google data dashboard to review it all, I've also used Google Takeout to remove fitness tracking data from Strava (Strava had bad leaks a year or two ago). We can't avoid ads entirely so if I am targeted so be it, credit card banks have been doing this for decades, not to mention the credit agencies have more sensitive data on me and look how well they're doing. I don't think Google is the only suspect, but at least they're transparent about it all.


    *Edit* - I'll add that I trust Google over all other Android OEMs in terms of tracking, OnePlus collects way more data than Google does (I believe).


  16. dsharp75

    Honestly, I don't know. I use the Essential Phone PH-1, which offers a more pure Android experience. Since I don't need Google Photos or Chrome, their loss is minimal even though I can't un-install Chrome. I've used all Microsoft fashioned apps for everything except Google Maps, which really is indispensable. I run the phone with a generic gmail account because they just require one, which is just silly (to me).

    Yet the Accounts section that retains your login info for apps is connected to Google so there's no escaping even there.

    I un-install any Google apps that I can and avoid using the ones that I can't. The only alternative to the Play store is downloading APK's, but there's a risk associated with that AND who's to say the app is even available outside the store? So, there's nearly no way to avoid the Play Store either.

  17. maethorechannen

    It's not the tracking that concerns me when it comes to wanting alternatives to Google. It's that don't I want to be reliant on a single company. Especially one that has little to no customer service and mostly run by algorithms.


    I'm not that concerned about the tracking because I think it's inevitable, because Google Analytics is so pervasive, Even with an iPhone or something like Sailfish, the moment you hit the web you're screwed. There's a limit to how far I'm going to go to just to avoid targeted ads - especially as I don't have much of a problem with them in the first place.

    • tmikolaj

      In reply to maethorechannen:

      Actually, avoiding web tracking is pretty easy if you're using Android: many browsers, like Opera, have ad blocking, and some, like DuckDuckGo browser, are privacy conscious, disabling all the tracking. Also, using DuckDuckGo as your default search engine is a good solution for any browser. Additionally, you can use VPN to tunnel your traffic to obfuscate your location (most VPN services have Android apps). It is harder to know what apps do in terms of tracking, but if you use VPN it takes care of the part of the problem.

      • gartenspartan

        In reply to tmikolaj:

        There's only so much one can likely do, even when masking your internet connection and content viewing. Fact of the matter is, to even download those apps you have to sign in to google services and google services is required to run most apps. Google probably will always know where, when and how you use your apps and your device as long as you use an android phone. Only Google knows to what extent. Using those apps on an iPhone likely is a different story though.

      • maethorechannen

        In reply to tmikolaj:


        Like I said, there's limit to how far I'm going to go. And that's not very far when it comes to privacy. The privacy gains are just not worth the time to me. And I actually prefer the tailored search results I get from Google.


        Security is different - if I use a VPN it's to protect myself from a script kiddie sitting in a coffee shop, not Google.

  18. mmcewan

    I've installed a curated hosts file on nearly all my windows computers. Does wonders for web page loading time reduction!


    There is no way to access a hosts file on my Windows Phone, but it seems as though it might be possible on Android. A good curated list in a hosts file might do wonders for knocking a big hole in tracking you. Anybody do this on Android?

  19. Rob_Wade

    Personally, I don't give one flip about the tracking, etc. I'm not big on privacy, quite frankly. I live a transparent life, I want to rely on the ubiquity of the cloud. What I don't care to do is rely on Google's or Apple's cloud. On my Android test device I've tried to get rid of or otherwise disable as much of Google's garbage as possible. I don't want to use ANY of their apps. I hate Chrome, I hate their music app, I hate their photo app, I hate the way their home screens work, I hate the way they look, I hate ALL the icon packages that are meant to "improve" the look. I hate their Maps, I hate their assistant. So, to the fullest extent possible, I've deleted or disabled everything I can. And that's still not enough, because it's still crappy Android. I hate that you HAVE to customize the hell out of Android just to make it useful and decent looki….oh, wait, it's actually impossible to make it decent looking. Never mind. It's extremely disappointing that no matter WHAT you replace their crap with, you are still slapped in the face with ugly, stupid Android. Microsoft's Launcher still looks like an Android screen...a sea of ugly, stupid icons. It's impossible to make Cortana work hands-free, since you always MUST initiate it with tapping on the flipping screen, unlike Windows, Window Phone and Windows Mobile. You have a umpteen different directions you HAVE to swipe the stupid screens just to get anywhere, and none of it is intuitive. It angered me enough when Microsoft started adding in more swipe directions to get to things I never wanted in the first place. Android is that on steroids. Frustratingly painful. And don't get me started on these idiotic widgets. Poorly designed, hardly useful and painful to even figure out where they can actually GO. Android sucks by design, and it's impossible to make it better. Everything you do is simply putting lipstick on the pig. Every time I pick up the device to try some new setting or app or whatever, I end up just wanting to throw the thing against a wall with a satisfying crash.

    • DLF

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Want to share what you use instead of Google's apps on Android, specifically these:

      Assistant

      Chrome

      Maps

      Photos

      (as these four, at the very least, are the most popular or considered best-in-class)?

      • Daekar

        In reply to DLF:

        I'm not Rob_Wade, but:

        Assistant: Cortana or Bixby (all Assistants are pretty useless currently since they're just glorified search boxes, so it doesn't matter which one you choose unless you've jumped into the swarm of jellyfish that is IoT right now)

        Chrome: Firefox. Better than Chrome on Android by a wide margin.

        Maps: Here (We Go) Maps. Not quite as good when online, but worlds better when offline.

        Photos: OneDrive


        For what it's worth, I make sure our photos are backed up to OneDrive, Google Photos, and Amazon Photos. My bad memory makes them priceless, and I'm not losing them, ever, no matter what happens to the house, my computer, a single account, or the whole state.

    • mmcewan

      In reply to Rob_Wade:
      The one nagging concern I have about tracking and personal information leakage is that it might not matter at this moment, but that doesn't make you future-proof against new uses of your data (combined with others) that may come into being. What if through some chain of data linkage you were to be charged with a crime (like saying a hateful word) against some (yet to be conceived) minority group? Just because you think you're innocent now, doesn't preclude an "Oh yeah" when the lights turn on and you realize you're compromised, and it's too late to do anything about it. You cannot trust the power of any tyranny, and you can't trust that some company with all the power won't become the tyrant. Much as I dislike Apple, at least they provide a bit of counterbalance.

      Bring back Windows Mobile :D Unleash the bluestacks (or whatever works).


  20. locust infested orchard inc

    To vastly curtail the transmission of one's data from &rude (the unceremonious though most apt name for Android) to Adoogle, one should consider installing a firewall such as NetGuard, that does NOT require a rooted &rude phone.


    NetGuard with its highly granular configurability, can block any app from accessing the internet, including restricting &rude system services from reporting to Mountain View.


    Furthermore, it can entertain the usage of the hosts file to block domain names, thereby blocking all ads.


    In addition, NetGuard can log all internet connections to a Pcap file (packet capture), thereby allowing to scrutinise which app or system service is still 'phoning home' using a Pcap aware software, e.g. the excellent open source network sniffer, Wireshark. Based upon this vital info, the offending service can have its connectivity blocked.


    It would therefore appear, by using NetGuard in conjunction with Firefox for &rude along with the superb uMatrix and 'Cookie AutoDelete' Firefox extensions, most of the data-harvesting and privacy-invasive techniques will have been allayed.


    There's no need to use Gmail (though Adoogle stopped the practice of reading all users' emails in 2017, they still allow app developers to scour through users' e-mails – more about that with conclusive proof in my forthcoming comment), it's only a matter of finding an alternative to the Adoogle Play Store.


    As for both Adoogle Assistant and Adoogle Maps, there's not a lot that can be done, unless one chooses alternative services.

  21. MikeFromMarkham

    Aside from turning off irrelevant permissions on an app by app basis to reduce tracking to a degree, I've found that using Blokada in combination with Brave Browser lets me avoid nearly all advertising without breaking the internet completely on my phone. Whatever Google knows about me and sells to adverisers then becomes mostly inactionable anyway.

    • locust infested orchard inc

      In reply to MikeFromMarkham:

      Re: Brave browser


      Brendan Eich, the creator of the Brave browser, but notably famous for being the pioneer of JavaScript and the co-founder of Mozilla (the Firefox browser company), has been entertaining the idea of paying users to watch ads in his Brave browser, via the use of BAT, Basic Attention Token, a decentralized ad exchange platform based on Ethereum. I shall spare you of the details of how this works, though info from Wikipedia is a good place to start.


      The point to note is the Brave browser is not devoid of ads, but I believe one can opt out from viewing ads (?).


      This is even more dangerous than the current business model of Adoogle.


      The BAT (Basic Attention Token) business model is even being considered by pornography studios, in a bid to coerce the highly sexualised youth to watch the degrading, debasing, degenerate, and utterly immoral videos, rather than pirating them, by luring them with the enticing offer of being paid to watch – the more one watches, the more $ one earns, the more one becomes a misogynistic sociopath, with the vicious cycle of vice forever continuing.

      • MikeFromMarkham

        In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

        I can't speak to the points you raised about Brave. All I can say for sure is that the combination of Blokada and Brave seldom throws up ads of any kind on my Android devices, and blocks serious amounts of tracking according to the Blokada logs.

        • locust infested orchard inc

          In reply to MikeFromMarkham:

          Blokada is a basically a system-wide proxy that ensures all traffic passes through it, allowing filtering of ads based upon domain names.


          Blokada is similar to NetGuard I mentioned in another comment I posted within this article, but Blokada serves only to block ads (hence its name) as opposed to being a app firewall, which is what NetGuard is, in conjunction with it being a system-wide ad blocker.


          Blokada is open-source and is an invaluable &rude app.


          There are choices to be had on filtering data on &rude, be it egress or ingress filtering, the choice is yours.


          Blokada is an ingress filter.


          NetGuard is an ingress and egress filter.

  22. Markyjns

    For a long time I avoided Google didn't use their services, was on Windows phone, used Bing for search, here for maps, bing for image search, outlook for mail even on the iPad. Then I switched to Android after the demise of WP but limited my exposure, continued with outlook, continued with bing etc etc


    It helped that I was on Samsung devices as they have their own alternatives too that keep you out of Google's clutches for the most part.


    Then I got rid of my aging iPad for the Samsung galaxy Tab S4 (a beautiful tablet btw). And decided after much thinking to just see what Google can offer.

    Google photos is brilliant! YouTube Music brilliant, Google Drive sooo much faster combined with google photos than Onedrive is!


    Started using the gmail's account I'd set up when first bought an android phone, installed google trips after a recommendation from you. Went through all Google's privacy settings and for all they now know about me over these last few months WWW life is smoother, easier and now even though I have adblockers on most times when I do see ads they are actually for stuff I have an interest in, likewise YouTube music and YouTube are surfacing for my attention artists i hadn't really considered but that are actually of interest to me.


    I had expected to be switching it all back off, I've never liked Google especially after all they did to frustrate windows phone and i've always sort of viewed Google a bit like the Empire in star wars but lifes too easy now, yep Google now knows everything about me but that actually helps me quickly get things done. And entertains me by providing new music that i love but had never listened to.

  23. Daekar

    I feel like we literally can't know the answers to some of your questions, Paul, without far more data than Google will ever allow anyone to see. I think this is a case of doing what you can without crippling yourself when placed in a position with very few good choices.


    I think the most important thing in the end is to not be beholden to any single company for your digital life. Putting too many eggs in one basket isn't good on a personal or societal level, and if I were writing this article series that's how I would approach it. From that perspective, it's about far more than just Google, we can have a discussion about strategies to keep yourself wholly committed to any ecosystem such that you can be agile and in control of your own destiny.

  24. justme

    What about the work companies like Blackberry (yes, Blackberry, for those who may believe the icon of physical keyboards is dead) are doing with their Key2? Blackberry no longer makes their own phones but is concentrated on software- specifically making Android more secure and private.

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