If you share our privacy concerns about using Google products, you need not wait for stronger privacy laws, or potential anti-monopoly measures, or shrug your shoulders in resignation. There are attractive privacy-sensitive alternatives to nearly every Google product. To anyone who wishes to escape Google, this post provides links to lists of alternatives along with our commentary.
We have cautioned readers before about Google’s invasive data collection and targeted ad enablement. See our prior posts including the following:
Regarding alternatives to the Google Chrome browser: Reduce personal data collected and web tracking; choose and use browsers wisely
Regarding alternatives to Google Search: Reduce tracking by Google Search or replace it for search engine privacy
Regarding alternatives to Google’s Gmail: Use secure email services that respect privacy
Regarding alternatives to Google Drive (a.k.a. Google Backup and Sync): For backup and remote access, consider an encrypted cloud storage account
While the Google “eco-system” provides robust functionality and many tools are free, the price paid is in privacy loss. Google products can track online activities, collect massive amounts of data, build in-depth personal profiles of users, and then pursue them with targeted advertising.
But Google products are much more extensive than just a handful of tools. As you can see, for example, in Wikipedia’s List of Google products, Google offers products ranging from operating systems, browsers, search tool, and email to development tools, mapping tools, analytics, mobile apps, communication, publishing, translation, video hosting, and even hardware.
Lists of alternatives to Google’s products for those wishing to escape Google
If you are concerned about the extent of the Google suite of tools and its broad data collection and targeted advertising, then we refer you to various lists of alternatives to each of Google’s product categories, such as the following references:
J. Moore’s list of Alternatives to Google products This starts with the comprehensive list of Google products enumerated in the Wikipedia article cited above, and for each one, it provides a long list of alternative products, describing each of those in brief. For an in-depth evaluation, you would need to investigate product reviews elsewhere (the latter is true of the other references as well).
Pixel Privacy’s Alternatives to Google Products This guide provides opinions and insights about the author’s handful of favorite alternatives in each category, providing a bit more information about each product alternative it cites than does reference #1 above, but this is not a complete list of product alternatives.
Restore Privacy’s list of Alternatives to Google products This article provides a comprehensive list of alternatives in each of Google’s main product categories with useful running commentary, and with references to other articles.
Site Beginner’s The best alternatives to Google products in 2020 This roadmap provides a shortlist of alternative products for each of Google’s main products. For those alternatives listed, the site offers useful comments.
Techspot’s The complete list of all alternatives to Google’s products As the title implies, this is a long list of Google products, and for each one, a comprehensive checklist of alternative tools is identified.
Considerations relating to the Google alternatives cited in these lists
The concern about vast data collection and targeted ads when using Google products is shared by all of the above resources as well as us. When you consider alternatives, we suggest that the following general issues that apply to any product category be evaluated, in addition to any product-specific issues:
What is the consensus of independent reviews (for some product categories, start with our previous posts cited above)?
Is the product free or paid, and if the latter, is the price reasonable for the value?
Does the tool run on all platforms of relevance to you?
How easy is the tool to use?
How stable, viable, trusted, privacy-dedicated, and customer-supportive is the vendor?
Is the data collected by the product absolutely minimal and vital for operations?
Is the data collected promised not to be transferred or sold to third parties?
What features does the vendor claim on the web site? Do they cover what you expect?
Can the new tool import data from the corresponding Google tool, if applicable (e.g., with mail, calendar, contacts,"to do" lists, cloud storage, etc.)?
Is the source code “open source,” making it reviewable by experts?
If the tool uploads data to a cloud server, does it use true end-to-end encryption?
Is the vendor in a privacy-focused country or jurisdiction?
5-Eyes vs. 9 -Eyes vs. 14-Eyes
Regarding the last bullet point above, some of the articles cited above designate if the alternative vendor is in an “x-Eyes” country or lists the country of origin. These refer to intelligence sharing alliances, the strongest of which is 5-Eyes, which today includes sharing of surveillance data. The referred countries are as follows:
5 Eyes countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA
9 Eyes countries: 5 Eyes countries + Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway
14 Eyes countries: 9 Eyes countries + Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden
Some privacy advocates view products owned by companies located in one of these countries, particularly in 5-Eyes countries, as more susceptible to government or court-ordered access to data. For a more detailed look at such concerns see, for example, the following:
Private Proxy Guide’s 5 eyes, 9 eyes, 14 eyes – should you be concerned?
Restore Privacy’s What are 5-eyes, 9-eyes, and 14-eyes?
You will need to decide for yourself whether or not a product produced in an x-Eyes country is a “show-stopper” for consideration.
Not the focus of these articles is the more egregious surveillance, censoring, and anti-dissident actions by authoritarian regimes, but there are few software products to be considered from such countries in the alternative lists above.
As a reaction to Google’s invasive data collection and targeted ad enablement across its product line, lists have been compiled of alternatives for each of Google’s products. We recommend you consider a gradual adoption of such alternatives that have a greater focus on privacy.