Going Google and Facebook free

March 31, 2018

For a few years now, there has been silent, but a continuous bad feeling in my head about how much I use and depend on services of Google and Facebook. I've have fantasized about the idea of burning the bridge between me and these two giants. But as said before, my everyday life really depends on their products. Even thinking the amount of work on burning bridges has gotten me forget the plans.

I've started using Gmail in 2007 and joined Facebook in 2008. Years passing by, I have started using many of their other products or they have acquired the company running it: Google Calendars, Drive, Maps, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Blogger, WhatsApp, AdWords, Google Analytics, Hangouts, Google Fonts, Google App Engine, Android, Chromecast, Chrome...

The list just goes on and on, especially when talking about services by Google.

Not to mention that basically every association, organization and group I'm involved with, use Facebook for communication and Google Drive for documents. I think there's only one group, few at maximum, that does not use Facebook or Google in any way. Oh, a few years ago I pushed one WhatsApp message group of my friends to Telegram. That was a victory.

Things need to change, seriously.

Recent news about Facebook got me thinking my relationship to these two big companies once again. Do I really like them anymore? Should we divorce?

After sleeping few nights, as always when making hard choices, I decided that now is the time. I can't burn the bridges because there are just too many groups in my life using services from Google and Facebook. Turning their ship and migrating the data would be a total nightmare. But what I can do, I can stop using those services for my personal life.

Starting from this day, I'll migrate my services to other providers or self-hosted solutions. My life is so connected to Google and Facebook, that the migration is going to be a slow, but steady movement. This will cost some money and I'm totally fine with it. At least I'm not and my data isn't the way to pay for the services!

Why?

Few people asked in Twitter why I'm doing this. It's because of privacy. I won't write about it, because otherwise this post would be too long. Just have a look and read this Twitter thread to get the idea.

Facebook feels like the easiest starting point

For years, my usage has been basically only association and hobby group related. Okay yeah, I use Instagram and images go to my Facebook profile automatically - it's because old relatives want to know that I'm alive.

I'm going to take following steps to dramatically change the way I use services by Facebook:

  • Remove Facebook and Facebook messenger from my phone. If there's really need to use those services on the fly, I'll use the browser version
  • Set Facebook Messenger always offline and respond to another messaging platform (Telegram, SMS, phone call, email) to people asking personal life things
  • Leave all groups that are not tightly associated with my job, associations and organizations that I'm involved
  • Limit feed and notifications to show personal things of my friends as less as possible
  • Stop using WhatsApp and force people to contact me via Telegram, SMS, phone call or email
  • I like using Instagram, so I'm going to continue using it at least for now

Google is much harder

I'll have to make good solid war plan for this. DuckDuckGo has been the search engine of my choice a good time already, so at least that's simple.

Mail should be relatively easy too and actually, I started moving my mail to FastMail today. Gmail address is still existing and will be, but forwarding to FastMail account using my own domain.

I made some preliminary plans and thoughts about moving away from other services by Google. It's missing many things for certain, we don't even understand how many services associated with Google we use.

  • Get rid of Chromecast and buy a bluetooth receiver
  • Migrate all of my calendars to FastMail
  • Change browser to Chromium. Unfortunately, the Firefox is not an option, it eats my CPU
  • Change Google Maps to OpenStreetMap based solutions
  • Move all of my personal Drive documents to Dropbox
  • Stop using Google Fonts
  • Migrate Google Analytics to Matomo (formerly Piwik)
  • Find a good alternative to Google Translate and start using it
  • Unlink 3rd party services from using Google oAuth2 as those come upon
  • Use SMS 2FA or some other (reasonable) method rather than Google Authenticator
  • Change OS on my phone (yeah, for sure. Maybe someday far in future...)

There is still many questions

There are also some questions that I have in my mind and I'd love to hear your opinions. Ping me on Twitter (@wahalahti) if you have an opinion or answer! There is also a GitHub repository to track progress.

  • Is Telegram the best alternative to WhatsApp? What would you suggest?
  • Which OpenStreetMap Android app is your favorite?
  • Are there any reasonable alternatives to Android in phone OS market? Or some Android version which is privacy oriented? I've used Sailfish in past when owned a Jolla phone and wasn't that happy with it.
  • Google Translate: is there any good alternative available?
  • What to do with Instagram?!
  • Have I forgotten something essential?

Let's see how this divorce goes and how nasty it will be. It will be a long journey for sure. I'll update in a few months or so how things are going.