Saturday, June 30, 2018

Breaking free of Google

More and more, Google's founding mantra -- "Don't be evil" -- strikes me as a bad joke. If having a corporation spy on me around the clock isn't evil, I think we need a new definition of the word. (Perhaps Pope Francis would like to have a go at that?)

Still, it's hard to break out of Google's grasp. Its Chrome browser has long been my favorite, for the slick interface that frees up my screen for the vital stuff. But recently I discovered Brave -- clearly modeled on the same platform but promising "Secure, Fast & Private" browsing, with built-in blocker for advertisements and cookies. Great! All the advantages with few or none of the disadvantages. (I do have one or two websites where I must enable cookies or give up the service. The ad-blocking hasn't yet caused a stumble anywhere. I'd forgotten how intrusive and sometimes disturbing those ads are!)

Google Search was a tougher substitution. For six months or so I used Microsoft's Bing, but heck, do I really believe that Microsoft is any saintlier than Google? So now I'm trying out the weirdly named DuckDuckGo with its motto, "The search engine that doesn't track you." Like Bing, it's pretty good but not quite as good as the Evil version, so for emergency use I keep a link on my Home Page to Google Search. (Similarly, I have a link there to the so-far unmatched Google Maps.)

The biggest challenge, though, is getting out from under Gmail. I've played about with ProtonMail -- located in Switzerland and offering end-to-end encryption when both sender and receiver use the service. There's a free version and a subscription that rents for €4 a month. I can access the service using Thunderbird on my computer, and I have an app for my iPhone though not yet for my Fire tablet. In time I probably go with the paid version (about $56 a year), but I still have some work to do.

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


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