I’m (mostly) free of the Google “Collective”

Kiran — Nikon D40 + Nikon 35 mm f/1.8 @ (35 mm, f/5.6, ISO200), Copyright 2013-02-09 Khürt L. Williams

Google launched Google+, their social network for nerds1, in 2011. It had almost no impact on real people, and growth was slow. Being the impatient type — wanting Facebook type numbers without the effort — Google decided to force everyone using any Google service to use Google+. They have been inflating their numbers via tricks on Gmail signups, requiring Google accounts for Google Play and YouTube comments and turning Google search into a social ranking system. They’ve managed to convince the cheapskates of the world — the people addicted to FREE — to hand over information that Google then mines and sells to advertisers. You are the product, not the customer. Your web behaviour is being tracked and analysed in EVERY Google service even when telling Google not to and Android device. Google probably knows you better than you know you.

But unlike Google’s legions of fandroids and glassholes, I know better. For the head-up-Googles’ ass types who might be reading this, if you have no worries about privacy and nothing to hide, I suggest attaching a GoPro — sorry, I forgot you have Google Glass — to your body and live streaming your life to your personal YouTube Channel. Your sex life, your showers, your masturbation habits, your intimate conversations … broadcast them all. You have nothing to hide, and you don’t need privacy.

I am on a quest to reduce my reliance on Google services. I am willing to delete my Gmail account, one that I’ve had since the beta launched in 2004, and move to another service. I’m eager to move my Google Calendar, the one letting Google know who I’m with, when and where. I’ll find a way to share photos without using Picasa web and without having Google do face recognition them so that they can better track us. I’ll find a less creepy way to share documents and videos than Google Docs and YouTube. Google won’t be able to track my phone calls and text and listen to my voice-mail anymore.


I will no longer use Google Chrome. I don’t trust it. For day-to-day use, I have switched to using the WhiteHat Aviator or Safari with the Disconnect privacy extension.

WhiteHat Aviator comes ready-to-go with hardened security and privacy settings, giving hackers less to work with. And our browser downloads to you – without any hidden user-tracking functionality. Our default search engine is DuckDuckGo – not Google, which logs your activity. For good measure, Aviator integrates Disconnect – a crucial extension that blocks advertisements and much of the privacy-destroying tracking users across the Internet.


I plan to move my Gmail, and Google Apps hosted email accounts to a paid IMAP service provider. The shortlist includes FastMail and Runbox. Both of these services offer trial accounts, and I moved one domain during the trial period. These two services offer migration tools for importing all existing mail, including folders, to the new account.

Gmail has some great spam filters. I’m not sure either FastMail or Runbox can match it. I’m already looking for alternatives. I don’t mind paying a nominal fee for spam filtering.


I’ve never been a heavy user of Google Drive or Google Docs. I prefer Dropbox or Box. Apple updated iCloud this summer, and it now offers similar functionality to Google Docs. In fact, on the Mac, it’s better. I can start a presentation in Keynote on OS X, save to iCloud and continue working on my Pages on my iPad, or make edits in Pages in a browser in iCloud.com. Dropbox or Box documents can be opened/saved via any iWork apps on iOS or OS X. The combination of Dropbox/Box and iCloud easily replaces Google Drive. If you prefer Microsoft products, Office365 is a great paid replacement for Google Drive.


I found a few alternatives to Google Voice. I created an account with Line2, and I am researching [Phonebooth](https://phone booth.com) and SendHub. Neither Line2 nor Phonebooth seems to match the features of Google Voice — call forwarding and voicemail being the major ones. SendHub seems feature complete but won’t be cheap. But that’s a small price to pay compared to starving Google of the value of my personal phone call information.


Moving my calendar should be relatively easy. While Google Calendar integrates more easily with Google+ events, there are no benefits to Google Calendar over iCloud.com, Live Calendar, or Zoho Calendar.


I’ve started to upload my personal videos to Vimeo. The free account limits my bandwidth to only a few videos uploaded per month and limits the quality of the video. That’s good enough for now. I may at some point decide that the quality gap is too high and upgrade to a paid account. In the meantime, I’ve deleted my YouTube account. I’ve had that account for almost a decade but I didn’t have any qualms about deleting all my videos and the account.


I’ve had a Flickr account before bought PicasaWeb (now Google+ Photos) and integrated it into their data collection empire. I’ve started to rely on that service more in the short-term. Yahoo and Google are in the same data collection business. I also have a paid account on 500px but prefer to reserve that account for only my best. I want an account on which I can share photos with my friends and family. Perhaps a paid account with SmugMug might be best.

  1. Seriously it’s a photo/tech nerd sausage fest. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise. Frack off! ?


  1. Camera : NIKON D5100
    Focal length : 24mm
    Aperture : ƒ/4
    Shutter speed : 1/640s
    ISO : 100
    Credit : Khürt L. Williams
    Captured : 17 September, 2017

    If you want to read content in Facebook, you have to log in and have an account and participate there directly, you cannot just subscribe to five peoples’ content via RSS and read it anywhere you want. This monopolistic behavior is exactly the reason we call them silos. Content goes in but doesn’t come back out. Like the early days of AOL, some people now think that Facebook is the internet. Once you’re inside and using their system, they literally do everything they can to keep you from escaping including framing external content within their app so that you can more easily go straight back to their addictive Facebook stream.
    But let’s ask us an important question: Where exactly is all this content on Facebook, Twitter, et al. coming from? While a significant portion is coming from individual users whose entire online presence and identities are on these platforms, a relatively large part of it is being pumped into these silos via API or similar access from blogs and other websites in an attempt to increase their reach and interaction.
    Just think for a minute about how close the New York Times and other news outlets have come in the past several years to potentially shutting down their own websites to push all of their content delivery into the capable hands of Facebook? Or how many magazine outlets transitioned from other platforms like WordPress and even Tumblr to Medium just before Medium made their recent pivot and let go of a major part of their staff? Can you imagine how troublesome or even catastrophic things would have been or would be if sites like Medium or Facebook went down, got bought out, or disappeared altogether–potentially taking all their data with them? Or what happens weeks, months, or even years later if those social silos change their minds?
    So if we go back to our first paragraph and think about what we’ve just covered, we might consider the fact that most traditional feed readers have simply become middle-man software for feeding data into social silos while extracting little, if any data, back out. This is a lopsided bargain and is, in large part, what is inexorably killing the traditional feed readers’ business model.

    Preach it!
    Chris is working on a book; a sort of users manual to creating more open spaces. I can’t wait to read it.
    I wrote or linked to a number of articles in 2014 and 2016 about the downsides to social media and my attempts to free myself from Google and Facebook’s experiments. I no longer spend any significant time on either platform but I am quite excited to have found the tribe that understands the vulnerabilities these entities present to an open web.
    Back in 2012, I read John Battelle’s responses1 to Facebook’s change in terms of service:

    As the years have progressed the web has gotten a lot more social, and it makes more sense to have our own brand and site. We can still be ‘on’ Facebook in the sense that we plug into News Feed and fan pages, but having our own brand gives us full, top to bottom control over the product experience, something that we think is critical for building the best tool possible for organizers to create campaigns for social change.


  2. I’m currently fully entrenched in the Google ecosystem. I have opted out of everything that I can with Google as far as ads and tracking, but I still have concerns about a company that makes its money from selling data to advertisers. I have an iPad that I use, but haven’t been able to give up Android as a phone just yet. I bought an iPhone 5S the first day they came out, but then sold it 3 weeks later because I’m too used to the way Android works (oh, and I hate iTunes, and Apple kind of forces that one on you.)

    I recently bought a MacBook Pro, looking to move away from Windows as my daily driver. I still have Windows at work, but it may be virtualized soon. This may make it easier for me to make the switch completely to Apple, should I choose to do so.

    I noticed that you didn’t list iCloud as a consideration for email. Is there a reason? I’ve also read some articles calling into question just how much data Apple gathers. What are your thoughts?

    1. Apple gathers data for some of the same reason Google does. Improving services (email, calendar, etc.) is one of them. Some services require data to function, e.g. Siri and Maps and Find my iPhone can’t work without location data etc. Some services such as iTunes Genius will, when you ask it to, search your music library and make suggestion on purchases. But it has to do this every time. The difference between Apple and Google is that Google benefits greatly from building a profile of you based on your passive usage of all their service. Apple does not. Google is freaking creepy. There is a software switch in the privacy section of my iOS that turns of “ad tracking” and allows me to control what apps have access to what services. Google tracks everything you do on your phone and you can’t turn it off. They when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake. They know when you’ve been good or bad so be good for goodness sake.

      You wrote,”I hate iTunes, and Apple kind of forces that one on you.” I assume you mean iTunes on the Mac. I have’t used iTunes in months. Last time it was to stream some music to my home stereo. If you are using iTunes to manage you iPhone and iPad then you are doing it wrong. :-) I know people who own iPads and iPhones and don’t have a computer.

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