With growing concerns over online privacy and securing personal data, more people are considering alternatives to Google products. After all, Google’s business model essentially revolves around data collection and advertising. More data means better targeted ads and consequently, more revenue for Google. The company pulled in over $146 billion in ad revenue in 2020 — and that number climbs higher every year.
Editor’s Note:
Guest author Sven Taylor is the editor behind Restore Privacy, a blog dedicated to inform about best online privacy practices, secure your electronic devices, unblock restricted content and defeat censorship.
But the word is getting out and a growing number of people are seeking alternatives to Google products that respect their privacy and data. Since you are reading this, we assume you are one of them…
When beginning the journey of restoring digital privacy, some people get overwhelmed with all the work involved, and perhaps give up. Don’t let that be you. Understand that you don’t need to do everything right away. Instead, start small and go step by step at your own pace. With each step, you get more security and control over your personal data, which is a small victory.
So don’t be overwhelmed and remember that there’s no “one size fits all” with this process. Even small changes, such as using a private search engine and a privacy-focused browser, are victories. So push on in your quest for more privacy and celebrate each step of the journey. The lists below are not necessarily in rank order. Choose the best products and services based on your own unique needs.
When it comes to privacy, using Google search is not a good idea. When you use their search engine, Google is recording your IP address, search terms, user agent, and often a unique identifier, which is stored in cookies.
Here are eight Google search alternatives to consider:
With the exception of Mojeek, all of the private search engines above are technically metasearch engines, since they source their results from other search engines, such as Bing and Google.See the new and updated best private search engines guide for additional information. Here we also explain that some “private search engines” are actually owned by advertising companies. Three examples of this are Startpage, Search Encrypt, and Ghostpeek.
Gmail may be convenient and popular, but there are three major problems:
When you remain logged in to your Gmail account, Google can easily track your activities online as you browse different websites, which may be hosting Google Analytics or Google ads.Here are 12 alternatives to Gmail that do well in terms of privacy:
More information on these providers is available in the secure and private email services guide.
Google Chrome is a popular browser, but it’s also a data collection tool. Even major media outlets are starting to take notice, with the Washington Post stating that “Google’s web browser has become spy software” with 11,000 tracker cookies observed in a single week.
Google (and the online ad business as a whole) is expected to ditch cookies in favor of a new tracking and data collection system called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). And as you would expect from the world’s largest advertising company, this new system also comes with privacy problems. Here are seven alternatives that offer more privacy while still being secure against hackers…Of course, there are other alternatives to Chrome. These include Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Vivaldi among others. But each of these comes with privacy drawbacks. More discussion on this topic can be found in the guide on secure and private browsers.
Google Authenticator makes it easy to use 2FA (two factor authentication) on sites and services that support it. But it only works on your smartphone, and doesn’t save backups of your authentication keys. If your mobile device is lost or stolen, regaining access to all your sites and services can be a real headache. There are a number of alternatives out there, including:There’s only one drawback to Authy for us privacy types – it is not open source.
Other alternatives to Google Authenticator include the authenticator built into some password managers (LastPass, for example) and hardware security keys like the Yubikey line of products.
If you’re looking for a private, secure cloud storage option, you can check out these Google Drive alternatives:There are many other well-known Google Drive alternatives like Dropbox, but they don’t score high marks in the privacy category.
Here are some Google Calendar alternatives:If you are looking for a solution that includes both email and calendar functionality, these providers offer that:
There are many solid Google Docs alternatives available. The largest offline document editing suite is, of course, Microsoft Office. As most people know, however, Microsoft is not the best company for privacy. Nonetheless, there are a few other good Google Docs alternatives:Here are a few good Google Photos alternatives:In November 2020, Google announced major changes to their policy of free, unlimited photo storage. These changes go into effect June 1, 2021, making now the time to move to an alternate service.
Unfortunately, YouTube alternatives can really be hit or miss, with most struggling to gain popularity. Invidio.us was one of our favorite Youtube alternatives. It worked as a proxy, allowing you to watch any Youtube video without logging in, even if the video is somehow restricted. Unfortunately, Invidious.us shut down on September 1, 2020. There are some alternative sites out there, but we can’t vouch for their security, privacy, or anything else.
Here are a few Google translate alternatives we have come across:If you want to translate blocks of text, check out DeepL. If you want in-depth translations for single words or phrases, then Linguee is a good choice. Swisscows used to offer a good translation service that supported many languages, but that has been discontinued.
For website admins, there are many reasons to use an alternative to Google Analytics. Aside from privacy concerns, there are also faster and more user-friendly alternatives that will respect your visitors’ privacy.
Many websites host Google Analytics because they run Google AdSense campaigns. Without Analytics, tracking the performance of these campaigns would be difficult. Nonetheless, there are definitely better options for privacy.
A map alternative for PCs is OpenStreetMap. Waze was a popular alternative to Google Maps until it was acquired by Google. A few Google Maps alternatives for mobile devices include:Currently the best Google Play Store alternative is to use F-Droid, an installable catalog of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) applications for the Android platform. See the F-Droid website or the official GitHub page for more info. Other alternatives to the Google Play Store include:
Want to ditch Chrome OS powering your Chromebook? Here are a few alternatives:
The two predominant desktop OS are Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS. Techies have voiced privacy concerns about Windows for many years. For various reasons, Windows has earned a bad reputation for protecting your privacy. While slightly better than Windows, Apple uses macOS to collect user data and has partnered with government agencies for surveillance.
The biggest alternative to Android is Apple iOS, but that’s no big winner when it comes to privacy either. Here are a few Android OS alternatives that can boost your mobile privacy:Here are some Google Hangouts alternatives:
To learn about these and other Google Hangouts alternatives that protect your privacy, check out our guide to secure messenger apps available.
Google Domains is a domain registration service. Here are a few alternatives:
Google Forms alternativeJotForm is a free online form builder.
Google Keep alternatives
Google Fonts alternative – Many websites load Google fonts through Google APIs, but that’s not necessary. One alternative to this is to use Font Squirrel, which has a large selection of both Google and non-Google fonts which are free to download and use.
Google Voice alternativesJMP.chat (both free and paid), Line2 (paid)
G Suite alternativeZoho is probably the best option
Google Firebase alternativeKuzzle (free and open source)
Google Blogger alternativesWordPress, Medium, and Ghost are all good options.
Most people looking for Google alternatives have woken up to the fact that they are paying for free products with their private data. In the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, internet service providers are also recording your online activity. This information can be legally sold to third parties (in the US), or saved in government databases (UK, US, and Australia).
Aside from government surveillance agencies, there are many private companies tracking your data (in addition to Google, Facebook, and the other usual suspects). To retain a basic level of privacy and security online, you need three tools:
We covered seven Chrome alternatives above, but the secure and private browser guide dives into this issue more intensely. Your browser can reveal lots of private and sensitive data to third parties; be sure to choose carefully.
A VPN will encrypt and anonymize your online activity from third parties, while also hiding your true IP address and location. Simply install the VPN app on your device, connect to a VPN server, then go about your business as normal. This effectively solves the ISP spying problem.
A VPN will effectively block your internet provider and third parties from snooping your activity and tracking you by your real IP address. In the best VPN services list, I examine some of the top VPN providers while also looking at a few direct comparisons.
Many ads also function as tracking for large advertising networks. A good ad blocker is an important privacy tool that will also improve page load speeds and declutter your browser. For a good understanding of the issues along with recommended products, check out this ad-blocker guide. The privacy tools guide discusses other solutions as well, including password managers, secure messenger services and more.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for Google alternatives? Feel free to drop a comment below. This guide will be regularly updated to reflect the latest information and user feedback.
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