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Degoogling Myself Part 2: Not Just Google This Time...

Kevin Nel

I have learned a lot since my last attempt at documenting my exploration into online privacy and cracked down on data collection by big corporations even further.

This article will address 4 main areas

  1. Why should you care if you have nothing to hide?
  2. What are some easy things you can do
  3. Some simple habit changes that can help.
  4. The next steps that I have taken since my last article (This will cover some more advanced things and stuff that may be a bit difficult to do if you are comfortable with the conveniences of the modern web)

Why Should You Care?

  1. It's not about having something to hide its about being able to choose what you have to say.
  2. Big tech has the power to not only manipulate you personally but manipulate the entire world.
  3. It is selfish to not care.
  4. Privacy is a human right

Some Easy First Steps

Switching To Software That Respects Your Privacy By Default

Search engine : Google or Bing -> DuckDuckGo

Password manager : Google or phone builtin password remembering features -> Bitwarden (cross platform and multi device with cloud sync) or keepassxc (offline)

Instant messenger : Whatsapp or FB messenger -> Signal

Chatrooms : Discord -> Matrix or IRC (this one is also tough if you are invested in some discord communities. there are not as many general communities on matrix and a lot of them tend to be tech focused. you could also ask the admins on your discord server if there is a matrix or irc bridge which allows you to join the discord conversations through matrix or irc)

Music streaming : Spotify -> Apple Music -> Bandcamp offers streaming and offline downloads of DRM free files in a variety of formats (including mp3, flac, ogg, wav and more)

Browser : Chrome -> Firefox

Email : Gmail -> Protonmail or Tutanota (this step can take a lot of work depending on how many online accounts you have.)

Language translation : Google translate -> DeepL Translator

Intelligent spelling and grammar checking : Gramarly -> LanguageTool

Fixing Bad Habits

Don't Stay Logged In All The Time

Another easy fix is to not stay logged in for months on end. This is especially easy to do on mobile where apps make it very easy to forget about. Log out of apps after using them and clear your browser's cookies, site data and history (ctrl shift delete for most browsers) after each browser session and before doing things like shopping.

Disable Your Location On Mobile

The overwhelming majority of apps do not need your location. Except for maybe your GPS app, most apps only want access to your location so they can link users who are in close proximity and better profile you based on the people you surround yourself with.

Android 10 has the ability to allow apps access to your location only while using them. Use this feature if you need to leave location on for "Find My Device".

You can also disable nearby device scanning and the other location stuff in android settings if you don't need to use the "Find My Device" feature.

Don't Let Apps Run In The Background Unless You Need Them To

In newer versions of android (ver 8 and up) you can prevent an app from running in the background by adding it to "Sleeping" apps or by going to the "App Info" page for the app in settings and disabling background use in the battery optimization settings.

Be Careful Of The Permissions You Grant To Apps And Websites

If an app does not obviously need a hardware feature like the camera or location, don't grant it access to it. Most mobile OS's are getting better at making the user aware of what permissions an app is asking for but it doesn't hurt to go and check what permissions all your apps have. In newer versions of Android (9+) there is a permissions manager in the device settings where you can manage all the permissions. Oftentimes the stock apps that came with your smartphone will have pre-granted access to all permissions.

My Samsung calculator app had location and contacts access!

Tweaking Your Privacy Options

Almost all sites and online services that use an account allow you to tweak your privacy settings. Google allows very fine control over your account and even lets you disable targeted advertising and reset your advertising ID (a unique identifier that allows google to combine multiple sources of information on you to map your interests). beyond that you should disable any features you don't absolutely need (for example location data).

It's important to check these settings every once in a while as new features can be added or old settings can be reset.

Bravo 6 Going Dark, (Advanced Tips)

what I've done:

Bonus Round! Things I Am Still Working On

Maintaining your privacy online is a journey, and making even small progress is better than none. So don't feel like it's not worth doing unless you do it all. Do what you can and what fits with your needs, but don't trust the defaults, they are almost never in your favour but even if you've been doing it for a while there are always new things to learn and new challenges to tackle.

  1. changing from discord
  2. switching full time to linux for personal use (music production)