Tips from a Privacy Expert on How to Quit Google

Unlike some companies that are easy to distance yourself from, like deciding to stop drinking Coca-Cola, leaving Google is a monumental task. With its extensive array of products integral to our digital lives, severing ties with Google is akin to a divorce, according to Janet Vertesi, a sociology professor at Princeton University and an expert in human-computer interaction.

Vertesi, who researches NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams and delves into human-computer interaction, made the decision to cut ties with Google in 2012 after significant changes to its privacy policies. She now runs The Opt Out Project, a resource offering advice and tutorials for transitioning from “Big Tech” services to community-driven or DIY alternatives. Given her expertise and experience, she offers valuable insights into how to approach quitting Google.

While comprehensive guides to quitting Google exist, the process goes beyond technicalities—it’s a multifaceted endeavor. Here are some key strategies to tackle it:

  1. Don’t Switch Everything at Once: Avoid overwhelming yourself by trying to quit Google entirely in one go. Instead, focus on replacing one Google product at a time. Start by selecting a single Google service and transitioning to an alternative. For instance, migrating from Chrome to Firefox is an excellent initial step, given Firefox’s privacy-focused features. Take it slow and gradually change your habits.
  2. Don’t Solely Adopt Another Company’s Suite of Apps: While it may be tempting to switch entirely to another company’s set of apps, Vertesi advises against this approach. Diversifying your toolset across multiple providers prevents a single company from having access to all your data and encourages experimentation with different tools tailored to specific needs.
  3. Consider Alternatives for Operating Systems: If you’re using an Android phone or Chromebook, explore alternative operating systems like /e/OS for Pixel phones or Linux distributions such as ElementaryOS for Chromebooks. For those considering new hardware, Vertesi suggests iPhones for better privacy features compared to Android and Chrome OS.
  4. Isolate Google Apps if Necessary: If certain Google apps are indispensable, use them in a dedicated browser to compartmentalize your online activity. This not only enhances privacy by preventing cross-tracking but also promotes work-life balance by segregating work-related tasks.

Quitting Google is a process that requires patience and persistence. While disentangling from such a pervasive company may seem daunting, it offers an opportunity to embrace alternatives that align with your values and priorities. By diversifying your digital toolkit and supporting organizations committed to privacy and transparency, you can navigate the transition with confidence and purpose.

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