Google is totally intertwined in our daily lives and we often don’t even notice that. Today the media wisdom Week begins. How can we make us less dependent on Google?
Send an email, plan a route, do a message, look up something. It is tempting to use a Google service for all these actions on your smartphone. Via Maps, Gmail, documents, Search and the operating system Android, we enable Google to collect and analyse our data. To get to know us as consumers better and to develop more services that serve us even better. And so that they can predict what our desires are, even before we realise that we have them.Ready to be disrupting: how to keep the boss fast
Not only individuals use Google applications. Business, government and many schools and universities also work with services like Gmail, Drive, calendar and classroom. It is almost no longer possible to function without Google account. Is it still possible to get away from it or are we held hostage by Google?
According to Google spokesman Rachid Finge, his company’s policy is not aimed at such a ‘ hostage ‘. “Our mission is to be the most helpful company in the world for as many users as possible.” According to him, Google is aware of being a big player. “We are also trying to behave in this. We also feel responsible for, for example, civil rights. ”
Because of the free services and the Android operating system for smartphones, Google learns to know its users very well, so well that their behavior is predicting. Useful for the users, because the files are reported even before the motorist enters it.
But it’s also a bit creepy. Most of these data are hidden by registering on which we click, how many passes we put and where we regularly get our coffee. With that data, Google earns money, but we give it away for free. Own fault, because we have agreed to the terms and conditions so that we can use Google services.
An ecosystem from which it is difficult to escape
Google is not the only company that aims to be present as much as possible in the lives of its users, says Professor Media Studies Mark Deuze. Many large tech companies build an ‘ ecosystem ‘ from which it is difficult to escape.
People are increasingly aware of their media usage and the fact that they give away those data for free, says Deuze. “We knew for a long time that if something is free, I’m actually the product. And at last we are going to behave in that too. ”
Ancilla van de Leest also sees that the realisation begins to grow that we make ourselves dependent on large foreign companies. “But the process is not yet irreversible,” says the former list of Pirate Party and advisor in the field of privacy.
It’s a bad idea to give one company so much power when it comes to important digital infrastructure thinks of the reads. “Google is a commercial company with a questionable morality. They have a nice story, but time after time it turns out that they don’t take it so closely with European laws. They do not get these fines from the European Commission for nothing. And now we deliver our young people and their data. ”
Don’t erase all Google products all of a sudden
Google uses the data of its users not only for commercial purposes. Like other companies, Google sometimes shares it with Governments, for example, for legal investigations, if legally required. Finge: “That sometimes as governments think differently about human rights. It provides difficult situations and even fines. ”
Deuze understands that institutions and individuals make frequent use of Google’s products. “It’s a fantastic service. It already helps when people realise that they make a lot of use of it and think about why they do it. It’s profit if they consciously choose and have an answer to the question: Why do you use Google? ”
Van de Leest also advocates more technological wisdom: “We need to teach our children what to look out for when using apps and technology. Internet does not consist of Google alone. ” According to her, it is consciously dealing with media ‘ a societal challenge ‘. “You regularly hear people saying ‘ but it’s not so bad ‘, or ‘ it’s already too late, there’s nothing left to do ‘. But then no one takes responsibility. ”
Google does not have to abolish all of Deuze and is also unrealistic: “People have a job, hobbies and maybe in the evening also want to do nothing. Who will spend two hours a week going through his privacy settings? ”
But changing your behavior a little, that is possible, says Van de Leest: “Support small initiatives, do not use all the same technology. With foodstuffs that is already more obvious, we are buying more and more local products. Why don’t we do that with technology? But don’t do it too extreme by erasing everything from Google directly. It sounds almost like a kick-off, but it’s a pitfall to radically switch. For example, I run poorly without Google maps, but the other services can be missed. ”
Google has no problem with it if users prefer to switch to another provider, says Finge. “The use of Google is voluntary, there are plenty of alternatives. We think it will be good if there is a choice. There are plenty of people who, for example, have a Hotmail address and watch YouTube without logging in. ”
To make switching easier, Google is working on a new service. Finge: “With the Data Transfer Project, you can move all your emails or photos to another provider with one click. But that service is still in its infancy. In 2012, there was already an initiative by a bunch of Google employees who called themselves the Data Liberation Front. They found that consumers are in control of their own data and have developed the Google Takeout service, which allows you to download all your data. This doesn’t erase all the data yet, but it allows anyone to clear their Google account. ”
Disillugling in four steps
Do you also feel like you have become very dependent on Google? With these steps, you can take matters back into your own hands.
1. Remove yourself from the search results
The first step is simple: Googel yourself, see what results appear and ask Google via the dedicated web form to remove it. Since 2014 everyone has the right to be forgotten and Google has a duty to remove unwanted search results. Google itself makes the assessment of whether the need for privacy outweighs the public interest and is quite strict. Google has nothing to say about the underlying pages, so to remove it, a request must be sent to the owner of the site behind it.
2. Check your settings
Take a fifteen minutes to look at your Google account settings. Google offers a privacy check to which you can quickly get better. Provided you do not allow the garden to be guided by the marketing texts and unclear language as: ‘ Do you want ads that are more relevant to you ‘, which actually mean: ‘ Do you want to share all your Internet behavior so that Google can take that commercially out? ‘ Turn off the location history feature and use the GPS signal and mobile data only if it is really needed.
3. Forget Chrome, Google Search, Gmail and the other services
When browsing the Web, we often click mindlessly Open Chrome, where the startup page is automatically the Google search engine. Of course, that doesn’t have to. There are plenty of alternatives for searching and visiting websites. The art is only to not get out of the rain in the privacy-drops and donate all your data to the next tech giant. So avoid Safari from Apple, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer. For example, try Avant, Brave or Midori. With the latter, you immediately hit two flies in one blow, because there is the search engine DuckDuckgo. So far, that’s the most successful counterpart to Google’s search engine that allows you to search anonymously.
Also for the Internet Mail Service Gmail are enough alternatives. Hotmail is probably the best known, but that is again owned by Microsoft, also such an internet giant. Choose a smaller alternative, such as the German Mail.com or the Swiss ProtonMail. Switching to another mail provider immediately has taken a big hurdle. The Google account can now be deleted and there is no longer a profile to link all the collected data. Then rest only step four for people who really want to live without Google.
4. Smite your phone in the trash
For the final step, a good dose of guts is needed, and at least a slumbering need for social isolation. Throwing your phone into the trash can be the most effective way to get rid of Google, but not really realistic. Most phones in the Netherlands use the Android operating system and that is, of course, owned by Google. That’s also the main reason Google can gather all that data: wherever we go, our phone also goes. One way to get rid of Google is to have a phone with another operating system, think of the iPhone or a Windows Phone. There are other operating systems, but that requires a good dose of technical knowledge, because you have to install them yourself.
Those who do not want to go so far can decide to use Google at least as less as possible. Divide and conquer, is the motto. Find alternatives to apps that hang on the Google account, and don’t fill in your real data anywhere, but just invent another day you were born. Or click listings that aren’t directly in your area of interest. A little civil disobedience may be best. And log out of services that you don’t really need, like YouTube, for example.