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Want to de-Google your life? Here’s alternative browsers, email and search engines

There have been concerns about the amount of data that Google is gathering about us

Google has become a major presence in our everyday lives. Whether it is our mobile phones, our smart home devices, search engines or email, it's everywhere.

For many people, that works just fine. The services are reliable, some are free, and they do what we need them to do.

But there have been concerns about the amount of data that Google is gathering about us. The company is a multi-billion dollar business, and at the heart of that is data. And a lot of that data is being handed over to the company by users of its products, free of charge.

There are plenty of people who are unconcerned by that prospect, seeing it as a fair exchange for the services they access in return. We aren’t saying everyone should turn away from Google; in fact we rely on a lot of their services day to day.


But for those who are coming around to a more privacy-focused way of thinking, is it possible to completely remove the influence of the tech giant from our lives?

It's difficult, and that's because while you can cut Google services out of your own life, you can't control what other people do. So Google may have some access to your personal information through your sister's Gmail account, or your father's Android phone, or the fact that your sister regularly visits your home, a fact that her locations services on her phone passes on to Google.

It’s worth pointing out that Google is by no means the only offender on this front. There are plenty of companies out there scooping up our data on a regular basis. But as a well-known company, and one with it fingers in so many pies, it gets regular attention.

So what can you do if you want to de-Google your life? There are some areas you can look at.

Search engines There are reasons why Google has become the biggest search engine on the planet: it’s fast, it’s reliable and it’s vast. If it’s time for a change though, there are options.


Billing itself as the privacy browser, DuckDuckGo promises not to track you or sell on your data, which gets an instant two thumbs up. But there are other reasons to use it. For example, it cuts out the filter bubble, where the search engine shows different results to different people using the same search terms.

DuckDuckGo has an extension for your regular Chrome browser, which includes the search engine, tracker blocker and encryption enforcer in one, and means your activity is private by default.

You can also add DuckDuckGo as the default search engine on your browser, which will cut out a lot of the tracking that we have become almost immune to these days.


A search engine with an eco-friendly heart, Ecosia uses its profits to support climate action. After it covers its costs, the company funds everything from renewable energy to protecting trees, claiming to have planted more than 120 million thanks to its operations.

It also built its own solar panels, which provide enough energy to not only cover its own energy needs but delivers twice that, intending to crowd out “dirty” energy from the grid.

Aside from that, how does it do as a search engine? Its results are provided by Microsoft’s search technology, so you get the same as what you might expect from Bing.


Dutch search engine StartPage has two things in its favour: it claims to be the world’s most private search engine, and it has access to Google’s search results. That is a powerful combination, giving you all the things you like about Google without any of the data gathering.

StartPage pledges not to save, share or sell your search data, it doesn’t use third party trackers or cookies, and search results are unprofiled so they aren’t just what the algorithms think you want to see.

There’s even an anonymous view, so you can go from your private search to the search results without signalling to advertisers that you are there. It keeps you anonymous so you can check out the search results in private, without being hit by a barrage of cookies.

Apparently the search engine is just the beginning, with StartPage signalling it will follow with private versions of other common digital technology.

Browsers At one point, everyone used Internet Explorer. That wasn’t a surprise

: Internet Explorer was installed on Windows machines by default, giving the Microsoft-created browser a leg up on the competition. But things have changed. In 2002, Internet Explorer had more than 95 per cent of the market; Chrome has since taken over as the most popular browser in recent years, and Internet Explorer has been retired for consumers in favour of Edge.

But just because Chrome is popular, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best for you. If you want a change, here are a few suggestion that are more privacy focused.

Brave (Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android) The company behind Brave has been fairly vocal about taking on the tracking industry that has made billions in revenue for companies such as Google and Facebook. With its Chromium-based browser, it aims to practice what it preaches. Brave blocks ads and trackers so you can get online without having your every move watched by potential advertisers. Created by the man who co-founded Mozilla, Brave doesn’t gather data about your online activity, with everything staying on your device.

The browser not only blocks ads and trackers to keep your privacy intact, it also speeds up your browsing as a result. It can only be a matter of seconds, depending on the ads it is filtering out, but it’s enough to make you feel like you’ve gained something.

And because you have a built in ad blocker you can filter out the annoying ear wax or nail fungus ads without having to install any extras.


(Available on: Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS) Free, open source and developed by the Mozilla Foundation, Firefox has been around for a while. Like Brave, the latest version of the browser blocks ad trackers and makes much of the speed boost you'll get as a result. It also prevents autoplays, which is a personal pet hate online. It blocks fingerprinting of your machines, so you can't be tracked even anonymously, and blocks cryptominers.

Tor Bro

wser (Available for: Windows, OSX Linux, Android) Tread lightly, leave no trace; that could apply to your internet activity when you are using the Tor browser. The web browser is designed to hide your activity online, which makes it perfect for those who want to keep their anonymity.

To stop companies from fingerprinting you based on your device information, the Tor browser makes all users look the same. It also has multi-layered encryption, and isolates websites so third party trackers can’t follow you.

Email There is a saying: if the product is free, then you are the product. That may be very simplistic, but it’s quite often true, We swap access to free, useful (and not so useful) services in exchange for our data – and that is valuable. Gmail has become popular in part because it gives you a lot of space – you get up to 15GB of storage for your Google account services before you have to pay – and because it is easy enough to use. But with it comes ads.

Back in 2017, Google said it would stop scanning your email to use as fodder for targeted ads, but where you will now see them is under the “promotions” tab in Gmail. Tagged as an ad, they still look a lot like an email, which could get people’s backs up.

So what are the alternatives? That’s where we come back to the original “you’re the product” statement. Email may be where you have to spend a small amount of money to get a service that fits your needs. But it needn’t break the bank.

Germany-based seems to be a favourite among privacy advocates online. The company offers email from as little as €1 per month, and comes with a small amount of cloud storage, the ability to set up three email aliases, and mobile sync. The cheapest plan has 2GB of mail storage included, but you can adjust it to your needs and prepaying it every month. There is a free trial account available, to see if you like it, which is always appreciated.

ProtonMail Protected by strict Swiss privacy laws, ProtonMail not only encrypts your data, it also stores it on its own servers, which are secured and require biometric authentication to access. While it’s highly unlikely that you can just stroll into the data centre of any other provider, the ProtonMail set up certainly sounds impressive.

There is a free basic account, which has limited features such as 500MB of storage, a limit on 150 messages a day and limited support. But the paid-for accounts aren’t too expensive.The cheapest plan is €4 a month, and for that, you get 5GB of storage for your mail, the ability to send up to 1,000 messages a day, and up to five email aliases, plus it supports sending encrypted emails to external recipients.

Maps Google Maps is one of the most used apps I’ve

downloaded. It has reasonably accurate traffic information, it’s rare to find a place that it hasn’t mapped, and you can use Streetview to see real world locations rather than just points on a map.

But it does suck up a lot of data, feeding into your location history and potentially revealing a lot about you.

So what are the alternatives if you want to get rid of Google maps once and for all?

Here WeGo (Available for: Web, Android, Apple) If you are looking for an alternative to Google Maps that is as easy to use as the tech giant’s app, Here’s app is worth checking out. The free app is designed to help you get around more easily, regardless of whether you are taking a taxi, a bus, cycling or driving. It includes traffic information, and has turn by turn navigation for you to keep you on the right path.

OpenStreetMap (Available for: Web ) One for the web browser, the OpenStreetMap site is an open source project that has mapped the globe (or most of it, anyway). You can get directions online, giving you a breakdown of your route, how long it will take to get there, and what difference it will make if you decide to take public transport instead of your own car.