🌶️ Chilli

how I de-googled (as much as possible).

I, like many, decided a while ago to de-google my life. This post is about my reasons behind doing it, what I have achieved, and just as importantly what haven't I been able to de-google?

The service offering from Google is strong. There's a bunch of really useful tools - for free - that the average person can use in their daily lives. This could be for example Google Mail, Google Docs, or Google Maps, to name a few. I decided a while ago to stop using as many Google products as possible, because of their privacy policy. Their privacy policy is, it's fair to say ** checks notes ** not very good!

As I've mentioned in other posts before; if the product is free, then you are the product. I don't want Google (or anyone else) having the ability to go through my emails, my search history, or Google Docs to pick out advertising keywords, that they then sell to the highest bidder to have targeted adverts spat-back out at me. I can imagine that if you used all of these Google products then Google is as good, if not better informed, than your other-half! Having a single company know when you're going on holiday, or what your monthly budget spreadsheet contains, or whatever, without making this blindingly obvious to their users. Obviously, Google would argue that they probably make it clear in their privacy statement, but who realistically reads that? Even if you read it, you would need to understand it too. So, one day I had enough and decided to de-google my life as much as possible.

So, here's what I did, and if you want some level of privacy that means that you're going to have to pay for the privilege!

Google Mail

I switched my email provider from Gmail to migadu.com about 6 years ago. They're a small Swiss company that doesn't advertise, and exists solely through word of mouth alone. The great thing is that you can have as many email addresses and domains as you want. You can pay a single monthly, or annual fee, based upon how many emails you could potentially send each day. I hardly send any email, but I receive quite a few, so I'm well below the 100 sent emails a day limit for my plan. I think I'm on the mini plan which costs me 90/year(whichworksoutat7.50/mo). These sending limits are not hard, so nothing will happen if I send out over 100 emails a day in one month, but they would probably be in touch if I breached that soft-ceiling consistently.

Their service is really good, I've contacted them a couple of times to resolve things, and they've always responded super quickly, like with a fix within an hour. This goes to show even though they have no SLA support agreement, they simply don't need one. They do have their own DNS servers you can use, but I do everything through cloudflare.com anyway, so that's not really a biggie for me. They do offer, and also expect you to use DKIM, SPF, and DMARC (email security) policies, and once you've done it once, it's a 5 min job to set it up on a new domain in future. They have a funky DNS checker which will check that you've set them up correctly too.

They're certainly not at the level of Proton Mail for privacy, but at least I know that they're not using my mailbox to sell data to unknown 3rd-parties, or trying to advertise products based on the contents of my email to me. For me this is good enough. Alternatives might be: Proton Mail, Postale.io, or Fastmail.com. I've not looked so I have no idea if they're cheaper or indeed any better than Migadu.com. I'll also probably do a more in-depth review of migadu.com at a later stage.

I've already written a kagi.com article on this blog. You can read it here. I pay a monthly fee to them. I actually pay them $25/mo, but for this - in my opinion - I actually get quite a lot. Whilst this amount is quite high, not only do I get privacy-focussed search, I also get access to 9 different AI LLMs:

🌶️ Chilli

I can switch between the different LLMs depending upon my use case e.g research, or just a general search. I used to pay ChatGPT 20/motojustaccesschatGPT4,soIwassavingmoneybyswitchingtoKagi.cominthisinstance,ifyouconsiderthe15/mo I was already paying Kagi for their unlimited search functionality. So it costs me an additional $10/mo for unlimited access to (currently) 7 ai LLMs. I play Wordle everyday, and I find that either Claude Opus, or Mistral Large beat chat-GPT 4 hands down when it comes to solving Wordle words! They're also the 2 LLMs that I pretty much use on a daily basis for my general search queries. They do have a free-tier which you can try, and then you're limited to 300 search in total. I tried this for a day, before signing up.

I also like to use their lenses, which allows me to narrow a search down, so I can search for chicken, and use the recipe lens, and get recipes that only involve chicken. The same applies to a small web lens, I get to find smaller blogs (like mine) on there too. One of my favourite things, is that I can banish entire websites from my search results forever think Pinterest, or raise other websites towards the top of my search results. So for me, I believe that Kagi gives me good value for money, as I use search quite a lot - I average about 400 searches a month, both web and AI searches combined. Alternatives to investigate could be you.com, or duckduckgo.

Google Maps

As part of my de-googling exercise I got rid of my Google Pixel phone, and went with an Apple iPhone. I now use Apple Maps - which is free. I'm not a big maps user, I have to say. So there's not a lot to write here about this, other than, yes Apple Maps is not as good as Google Maps, but for the times that I do use it it get's me to where I need to go! I can program my car's GPS using an app of my iPhone, and the same applies with my eBike. They both use Google Maps, and I'm OK with that, as I don't really have a choice in the matter. Privacy-friendly alternatives: osmand.net (which I might look into further), or Organic Maps. I have no opinion on either of them, as I've not used either of them to date.

Google Docs

I actually have an annual subscription to MS Office 365 (£80 pa). Yes, I know, I know, it's not exactly what might be considered privacy friendly per se, but they don't snoop on the contents of my documents, that I'm aware of. I bought this when I started my own company, as it gave me the best compatibility with the companies that I was working for. I have briefly tried OpenOffice, and LibreOffice, many moons ago now in fairness, but I think I'm simply too used to Microsoft Office. So, deciding on an Office 365 Subscription is a purely pragmatic decision. Let me know if you think I need to re-evaluate either libra or OpenOffice again, as I'm always happy to save some money. I have a MacBook and a Arch Linux laptop at home, so they will need to comfortably run on those.

Android TV

Here's something that you don't often hear about when it comes to degoogling. My Sony TV runs Android TV natively. Again, on a practical level there's not a lot I can do about that. So, I generally use my Apple TV box to do everything on. This is backed up with Adguard Home software installed on my Raspberry Pi, so that my whole house is as advert and telemetry free as possible. A Roku stick is a nightmare for privacy, and I would imagine that Amazon FireStick is not too far behind that either. I think privacy friendly alternatives to Android TV, are few and far between.

Both the Roku and Amazon FireStick collect data on user viewing habits, search history, and app usage. This data is used to personalize content recommendations and target ads, but it can also be shared with third-party partners. I also read that it's not possible to opt-out of some of these data collection policies.


Well, here it is; gosh, the one thing from Google that I can't seem to give up. I seriously learn so much from using YouTube, I can't think of anything that comes close. The way that I justify this to myself think about it, is that Google can now see less of my life than before, and I don't especially mind that Google knows that I'm spending half of my waking life 30 mins a day watching VanLife videos.

I get that some of you, Dear Readers, will say that some of my privacy choices are perhaps not as privacy friendly as they could be. I hear you, but I do try to be somewhat pragmatic in my choices, and one of the major concerns for me, as outlined at the start of this article is to move away from the monolith that's Google. One company with the potential to know so much about someone is the stuff of Netflix's 'Black Mirrors'; I'm almost sure. I do use a VPN when I'm connecting to public wifi and I installed Adguard Home (think alternative to pi-hole) on my raspberry Pi, so that my whole house is advert and telemetry free as possible. If you think I could improve on anything then please do get in touch.

#Google #tech