Think for a minute about what Google doesn’t know about you. Its search engine dominates the competition and it runs apps and services that know what you’re watching, where you’re going and what you’re interested in online.
Soon, along with Apple, it will even power a coronavirus tracker on your smartphone to tell you if you’ve been in contact with someone who is sick. Tap or click to find out how your location data will be used.
All this data might make you stop and think, “Huh, is there a good alternative?” Solid options exist for all the major software and systems if you know where to look. Tap or click for free alternatives to expensive Photoshop and Microsoft Office.
If you’re tired of being tracked and sharing your entire personal life with one company, switching away from Google is easier than it sounds.
How to search like Google
Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo’s entire gimmick is its lack of user tracking, as well as a company policy of no targeted ads or relevant results based on your search history.
On one hand, this means your results will be less tailored to your specific needs and interests. On the other hand, these organic results may help you find things that the Google algorithm might otherwise bury.
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The default options for Macs and PCs, Safari and Edge, are solid choices — and use up much less of your computer’s resources than Chrome. If you’re looking for different features, Firefox and Tor are solid contenders.
Firefox predates Chrome — but this browser is no dinosaur. Firefox’s active developer community frequently releases new updates and add-ons. Firefox automatically blocks third-party cookies by default automatically notifies you if you visit a website that’s been hit by a data breach.
You’ll also find many of the same add-ons that make Chrome so robust. Firefox uses less CPU than Chrome typically does and is capable of loading some websites faster to boot.
It’s a good option that combines security and privacy with speed, but expect a bit of a learning curve with a new layout and buttons. Once you get past that, it’s smooth sailing.
Designed as an “encrypted browser,” Tor uses special coding to keep your browsing habits secret from prying eyes and advertisers. It’s so reliable, in fact, that people living in authoritarian states have used it to break through censorship by installing the browser on USB drives.
Tor automatically runs a feature on every page it visits called “NoScript,” which disables things like ads, banners and autoplay videos. This decreases load time and memory usage significantly, but be warned it can also cause many sites not to load properly.
Tor routes your internet traffic through anonymous servers in different parts of the world, making it difficult for ad trackers, search engines and even governments to know you are and what you’re up to. Just don’t expect every website out there to play nice with your browser.
Looking for other options? Tap or click here to see a full comparison of the most popular browsers.
Gmail keeps track of things like buying habits, which can make switching to a new mail service seem worthwhile. These alternatives are easy to pick up and master and lack many of the privacy drawbacks found in Google’s mail client.
Email getting you down? Tap or click for five inbox hacks, including ways to banish tracking and junk mail.
Mailfence is an encrypted email service with a variety of unique security features. Users have the ability to add digital signatures to their messages, which guarantees that your emails are from you to your recipients.
Mailfence also offers a suite of document tools like G Suite’s Docs and Sheets, along with a calendar and access to third-party mail services so you can create email addresses using your own domain. It’s a great option for small business owners and ordinary users alike.
Protonmail is a popular option for users seeking absolute privacy. The company is based in Switzerland, a nation famous for its privacy standards, and its servers are literally buried underground.
Unlike most email services, Protonmail doesn’t require any personal info to set up your account. If anyone were hypothetically able to compromise your info, they wouldn’t be able to glean any personal information other than what you’re sending in messages.
There’s a limited free version and a more robust paid version, and you can use the service for your website’s domain. The company boasts that even they — the developers — can’t read your emails.
YouTube is another tool Google uses to build a digital ad profile for its users. As good as it would be to move to an alternative, none of the most popular options really match the quality of what YouTube has to offer.
That’s why these alternatives either work hand-in-hand with YouTube itself or have features that provide something YouTube does not.
Designed for faster load times and less impact on your browser, you can use Hooktube to search and browse videos just like you would on YouTube itself without ever visiting the Google-owned site.
You can watch YouTube links that other people send you by simply changing “youtube.com” in the URL to “hooktube.com.”
We’d recommend visiting the site this way most of the time. Hooktube’s “Trending videos” section can sometimes promote questionable content like conspiracy theories and fake news. The metric is based on shares rather than any kind of moderation. Tap or click here to see the most common coronavirus myths debunked.
Vimeo is a longtime competitor to YouTube, and despite never surpassing it, it still holds its own.
It boasts 280 million viewers per month, along with a much lighter server load that makes uploading videos easier. If you have long-form videos or self-made movies you want to share, it’s a perfect place to host them.
Vimeo allows for higher-quality videos than YouTube does, too. Independent filmmakers even use the platform to host movies for online distribution.
Google Maps is so big that many third-party mapping apps actually pull map data from it. That said, if you’re using an alternative that doesn’t share your data with Google, they aren’t going to see your movement and activity.
What you use instead depends on which operating system you use.
When Apple and Google Maps split up, it was a major controversy. Apple Maps comes standard on every iOS device in the world, and it now has more robust features than ever.
Apple Maps emphasizes user privacy by not tracking your searches beyond your device.
DuckDuckGo actually utilizes Apple Maps for its own mapping program.
You’ll have access to Apple Maps by default if you’re using an iPhone or Mac, but Android and PC users can access Apple Maps via DuckDuckGo.
A lightweight and powerful mapping client, HERE WeGo users give it high marks for its commitment to privacy and speed.
This application offers versions for nearly every platform, including iOS, Android, PC and Mac. HERE WeGo loads directions and maps a bit quicker than Google’s option but won’t run quite as fast as Apple Maps on Mac systems.
Google may dominate the web, but it’s far from your only option. You can switch to some of these alternatives and rest easy knowing all your internet and privacy needs are covered.
That said, you should always be aware of what information you choose to share online, no matter how trustworthy the tools you rely on. Google isn’t the only one watching. Tap or click here to see how fake Facebook profiles spy on you.
After all, your data is money. Don’t give companies a chance to cash in.
BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: Easy way to see if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi
Now is not the time to be dealing with slow internet. The problem may stem from the way your system is set up or your old equipment.
Or it might not be your system at all. Slow internet could be the result of someone stealing your Wi-Fi. Fortunately, there are free downloads to help you see who’s accessing your Wi-Fi, whether you’re using Windows or a Mac.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.