Technology

Delete Google: Ecosia, Firefox, DuckDuckGo, ProtonMail

Last year, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. This year, my goal is to delete Google. Image credit: Ecosia
Ecosia Founder and CEO Christian Kroll created the world’s largest not-for-profit search engine. Image credit: Ecosia

Last year, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. This year, my goal is to delete Google. In the past few months, I’ve stopped using Google Search, switching to Ecosia, and ditched Chrome, instead using Firefox and DuckDuckGo. And while I haven’t deleted Gmail yet, I’ve already switched to ProtonMail.

Why do I want to delete Google? Just like Facebook, which I see as a cancer that spreads racism and fascism, Google is a Big Tech company that wants to become a monopoly, values profits more than privacy, and contributes to the deterioration of the internet. Each of these alternatives to Google products does a better job of protecting your privacy and were developed by companies that want to create a better internet. Google’s motto used to be: Don’t be evil. I suppose they realized that motto no longer rings true because of what they have become over the years.

Ecosia: Plant trees while you search

I’ve written about Ecosia before, and I absolutely love this Berlin-based social business.

Recently, Ecosia came out with its first major integrated brand campaign across Europe — and the story behind this campaign is every bit as remarkable as the company itself.

“Our campaign was sparked in an unusual way:  A group of film students at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg created a brand video titled ‘Weird Search Requests’ as part of a class assignment – which went on to win multiple awards,  including a Silver Screen in the prestigious Young Director Award award at Cannes.

“We loved this video so much, we obtained a 12-month license and decided to expand on their film concept to build an integrated campaign featuring TV, OOH, digital, press and social. We then partnered with JCDecaux and Sky Media to create a comprehensive campaign plan that is currently live in 12 major cities across Europe.” 

To date, Ecosia users have helped plant over 125 million trees. Ecosia donates at least 80 percent of its profits to nonprofit organizations that focus on reforestation. The beauty of Ecosia is that you just search the web as normal, but in so doing you help plant trees.

Not only that, but also the company started building its own solar plants in 2018 and now all its searches are powered with 100-percent renewable energy.

Firefox: Protect your privacy

Last year, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. This year, my goal is to delete Google. Image credit: Mozilla Corporation
The Mozilla Firefox headquarters in San Francisco. Image credit: Mozilla Corporation

A free and open source web browser, Firefox was developed by the American non-profit organization the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. The Firefox Browser is just one of the different Firefox products, all of which are designed to protect your privacy.

For instance, all mobile and desktop browsers have Enhanced Tracking Protection enabled by default. This means that when you use Firefox, it automatically tracks more than 2,000 trackers. Tracking is one of the epidemics causing the deterioration of the internet. Companies follow your every move on the internet, whether you’re browsing sites or shopping online. Invading your privacy so that they can collect data that will allow them to not just predict, but also influence what you’ll do next online.

Thankfully, the Mozilla Foundation is guided by the Mozilla Manifesto, which now also includes an addendum, the Pledge for a Healthy Internet, which says in part:

“Over the last decade we have seen this promise fulfilled in many ways. We have also seen the power of the internet used to magnify divisiveness, incite violence, promote hatred, and intentionally manipulate fact and reality. We have learned that we should more explicitly set out our aspirations for the human experience of the internet. We do so now.”

DuckDuckGo: Same internet, more privacy

With one click of the Fire Button, DuckDuckGo will close all tabs and clear data. Image credit: DuckDuckGo
With one click of the Fire Button, DuckDuckGo will close all tabs and clear data. Image credit: DuckDuckGo

Based in Paoli, Pennsylvania, DuckDuckGo, which is also abbreviated as DDG, is an internet privacy company that believes “your personal data is nobody’s business”.

To stop online tracking, the DuckDuckGo mobile browser and desktop extension are equipped with private search and seamless protection from trackers while you browse. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for years, actually, and one thing I really love about it is the Fire Button.

With just one click of the Fire Button, you automatically close tabs and clear data — an excellent example of how DuckDuckGo is fulfilling its promise of delivering privacy, simplified.

And not only is DuckDuckGo creating new technology, but also the company is working with policymakers to make online privacy simple and accessible to everyone.

One example of how DuckDuckGo is protecting your privacy: you can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block Google’s new tracking method called FLoC, which it automatically turned on for millions of its users while testing it.

ProtonMail: Secure your communications

ProtonMail believes privacy is a fundamental human right. Image credit: ProtonMail
ProtonMail believes privacy is a fundamental human right. Image credit: ProtonMail

Here’s the funny thing: I’ve actually had ProtonMail since it launched its public beta in 2014. I just kind of forgot about it because I was already using Gmail for years. In 2019, however, I revived it because one of my friends since high school believes in using Free and Open Source Software, and so had stopped using Gmail. Now I’ve decided to make ProtonMail my main email platform while I wean myself from Gmail.

ProtonMail is an open source, end-to-end encrypted free email platform developed by scientists who met at CERN. You know, where the web was born. Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, ProtonMail has all its servers located in Switzerland, so all user data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws. The company believes that privacy is a fundamental human right.

Just how serious is ProtonMail about security?

“ProtonMail’s zero access architecture means that your data is encrypted in a way that makes it inaccessible to us. Data is encrypted on the client side using an encryption key that we do not have access to. This means we don’t have the technical ability to decrypt your messages, and as a result, we are unable to hand your data over to third parties. With ProtonMail, privacy isn’t just a promise, it is mathematically ensured. For this reason, we are also unable to do data recovery. If you forget your password, we cannot recover your data.”

The basic ProtonMail account is free, but you can also support the project by donating or upgrading to a paid account.

What’s next?

Admittedly, in my quest to delete Google, the hardest to give up will be YouTube. Fortunately, this comprehensive guide to quitting Google by Lifehacker might prove useful.

However, it’s possible to create a modest set of workarounds so you can enjoy YouTube without having to swear off the platform entirely. The trick here is to preserve as much of your YouTube account’s functionality from outside of Google’s ecosystem—essentially, you’re going to make YouTube come to you, on your terms, as best you can.

Honestly, it was easier to delete Facebook than it is going to be to delete Google. Most of us have been part of the Google ecosystem for years. Still, I believe it can be done. I want to delete Google because I believe in decentralizing and stopping Big Tech from choosing the future of the internet for us.

Sure, as an Apple fanboy, I know I won’t be leaving its ecosystem, but at least Apple is prioritizing privacy. Plus it means I don’t really care about Android, so that’s one less part of the Google ecosystem I need to escape.

I believe it’s important to support these smaller companies who are fighting for a better internet and using technology for good. That’s why I’m determined to delete Google.

Google and greed both start with G, but so does good. Let’s choose to embrace good.