First of all, why would you want to avoid Google? Well, there are several reasons...
- Google offers a lot of services, so they collect a lot of different data from different sources.
- Google connects all the data from these services into a very detailed profile, meant to advertise at you with more precision. This is their whole business model and they're very good at it.
- Google is quite willing to share this profile with the US government. They only need to ask.
- Google has been known to break promises about privacy and data retaining policy. Here's the most recent case.
- They also are known never to delete any data.
How can you get away from Google? There are lots of things you can do. Any of the items listed below will decrease the stream of data that flows from you to Google. The more you can do, the smaller it gets.
Most of their services have decent alternatives; some are so good you'll be happy you jumped ship. But before you do, clean out all that you can.
Next up: YouTube. Go to YouTube and click both Clear all watch history, and Pause watch history. From now on, when watching YouTube, do it when logged out of Google, as with all your browsing. If you need to log into your Google account for some reason, do that in a separate browser, and log out after use.
Stop using Google for searches
This is easy. Start using a different search engine, and set your browser to use the new one as the default. Google listens in on your searches, doubly so when you are logged into a Google account (so don't do that in your normal browser). Here are some privacy-conscious search engines.
StartPage <--- my personal favourite
Stop using Google Docs
Google Docs is pretty great, which makes it seem like it's hard to quit. But here are some alternatives. Some of them are hosted outside of the US: always a plus.
What we're looking for: online collaborative document editing and sharing, with the possibility of keeping documents hidden from those who aren't logged in. It needs to have some formatting options, and to have some kind of protection against data loss through accidental simultaneous editing. It would be great if it were something that can be viewed and used inside a webbrowser. It would be nice if it were free!
Etherpad is great for quick editing of simple documents in groups, in real time and with no editing conflicts.
Here's Zoho. Here's Evernote. Here's ThinkFree.
Mailfence is in Belgium, privacy-oriented, and may be your one stop shop for docs and email.
You could also possibly make do with LibreOffice documents saved in Dropbox or elsewhere.
Stop using Google Maps
Easy-peasy. Use Here, Mapquest, or another one of several sites and apps. Plenty of options here!
Stop using Google Talk
Google Talk is Google's instant messenger. We have to make the distinction between the service (the protocol) and the software here. Google Talk is generally used through your browser, so many people do not use any specific software when they are using this service (and Google's servers). There are other protocols, as well as other software; some well-known services are ICQ (remember? It still exists), MSN, Facebook messenger, Jabber, and nowadays Signal and Telegram. Most services offer their own software but can also be used through third-party software.
There are a lot of options out there. The world is full of options for instant messengers. Signal is said to be great for privacy; Telegram is good too. These can be used on your desktop, laptop and smartphone. I'll write more about chat and messengers later.
The hard part with this one: getting your friends and other contacts to join you on a different service. Usually, users of one service cannot talk to users on another one. If this is a problem for now, you could start using Gtalk through a third-party application for now, so you don't have to log in into your Google account in your browser. There's that compartimentalizing thing again!
Good clients for desktops and laptops include Miranda IM for Windows, Pidgin for Linux and Adium for OS X.
Franz is multi-platform, and in fact so is Pidgin. But there are others out there.
Stop using Google Translate
This is tough. Google is probably just the best option here.Try Bing, or install some translation software.
Then again, they are certainly storing the content of the text that you are translating, but probably not a whole lot else, as long as you're logged out of any Google accounts. You're logged out, right?
Stop using Blogger
Move your Blogger blog over to a different service. Yes, it'll hurt a bit. But there are tons of good options. You could clear it out and leave a link to your new home behind, if you want people to be able to find it easily. You may lose some readers and commenters, but you'll gain new ones.
Stop using Google+
Just stop. No need for a replacement.
Stop using Google Chrome
Start using a different browser. If you're a creature of habit, Chromium is for you.
Install it, and let it import your bookmarks. Then, in Chrome, go to Settings > Advanced Settings > Privacy > Clear Browsing Data. Tick all the boxes, so it all gets deleted.
Finally, delete your Google Chrome profile from your computer. In Windows it's generally stored in C:/Users/[yourusername]/AppData/Local/Go
Stop using Google Mail
I know this is a big step! It's fine not to do this straight away. It is a step that has a lot of positive impact on your privacy, so it's a great thing to do, but save it for last if you're finding it scary.
Before you switch to another email provider, which is something I strongly recommend, go into your Gmail account and clean out all email that you don't care about; then set up Thunderbird (or a different email client of your choice) and download all the email you want to keep. Here's how. Also download your address book: here's how.
Go back into your Gmail account and delete everything. All emails and all addresses. We don't know how deleted they really are. But it may help.
Now you're ready to sign up with a non-US email provider that offers encryption. Congratulations!
Now, the ultimate step is to delete your Google account. If and when you're ready.
Further reading on getting away from Google:
Going Google-Free: The Best Alternatives to Google Services on the Web
How To De-Google-ify Your Life: The Complete Guide To Leaving Google
The Best Google Alternatives For Email, Search, Docs and Everything Else
As always: if I'm in the wrong, please set me straight and steer me to decent sources. Thank you!