How to DeGoogle your business in 2022
Getting away from Big Tech isn’t easy. But let's look at how we can chip away at doing that with for our business (and our customers).
January 12, 2022
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It’s currently damn-near impossible to avoid everything-Google when you’re running a business. Their software, and more importantly, their tracking tools, are omnipresent.
If we first look at just two areas, analytics and ads, 85% of websites use Google Analytics, and more than a fifth of all ad revenue is spent using Google Ads and Facebook. So replacing your analytics with a Google Analytics alternative and relying on marketing methods other than Google Ads is a significant first step.
And, as you’ll see below, there is much more you can do to DeGoogle your business.
Google offers “free” products, from analytics to email to streaming videos—not because they’re being nice—but because they’re a tracking company. By keeping track of what you click on, what you search for, what you watch, what’s in your email content, etc., they can build robust profiles to hyper-target ads at you and violate your privacy. The more free products they can get you to use, the more they can track you (as in, track all of us).
While ads aren’t automatically evil, they can be used to influence our behaviour, change our minds politically, or even sell us on false ideas, they can become problematic at best and downright scary at worst.
If you’re thinking, “Well, I have nothing to hide and don’t look at ads,” then that argument is unfortunately flawed.
- Even if you don’t do anything illegal, it’s essential to protect information. That’s why no one drives around with their credit card details plastered across the side of their cars. It’s also why (most of us) close the door when we go to the bathroom. Having one company know everything we search for, buy, watch, etc., can sometimes include things we wish were protected.
- Privacy should be a fundamental right, even if you don’t personally need it. Just like the right to free speech doesn’t only matter when you’ve got something potentially divisive to say. Everyone should be protected from Big Tech spying when they search for mental health help, side effects of prescriptions they are taking, political dissent, or even information about minority sexual orientations. As in finding out information that, in the wrong hands, could be used to punish. Just because you don’t have anything to hide doesn’t mean others have the same privilege.
- Invasive data collection and selling leads to a communally worse human experience. Time and time again, data collected by Big Tech has been used to discriminate by race, manipulate democracy, and even help incite genocide. A company can’t just say, “trust us to collect this data, no harm will come, it’s just for advertising,” because it’s wholly untrue. Dictators and totalitarians push for lack of privacy, not democratic societies.
Google generates most of its revenue through advertising, and its advertising is mostly targeted ads based on data it collects through its free services. This is why DeGoogling exists. Their company history is also fraught with privacy concerns.
I’m ready to DeGoogle… so now what?
Trying to go from start to “ZERO DATA IN GOOGLE” can be impractically time-consuming, overwhelming and even expensive.
That’s why it’s important to remember that DeGoogling is a process. And the aim isn’t perfection (zero Google products, ever), but more a “less Google over time.” The same goes for the software that isn’t from Google, it may not be perfect, but it’s better than something from a company that offers products under the guise of “free” to generate revenue from exploiting our data.
The list below are products we use that aren’t tied to Google. Yes, some use Google Analytics on their websites, and some probably advertise using Google Ads. No company is perfect (as I mentioned), so the aim is to rely less on everything-Google.
Why not just use “free” Google products?
If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.
Google literally makes billions from their “free software,” which feels a little disingenuous as a business model.
And note, this business model is different from a “freemium” because freemium uses a free version of something to drive sales for higher tiers. Instead, Google’s “free” software generates revenue itself from tracking/advertising (making it not exactly "free") .
The companies below (including our own) charge a fair price to use their software. That ensures there’s no need to sell data because we all sell software instead—and it’s a very different business model (a more upfront and honest one).
As a company, you expect to have expenses. That’s just part of running a business (more expenses also mean fewer taxes). Would you want to be rent-free for a showroom or storefront in exchange for always-on cameras in the change rooms and washrooms? Ew. That’s essentially what Google is doing, but digitally, with our data, in exchange for their “free” products.
For us at Fathom, spending a few bucks a month on great software built by great companies is our preferred way of spending some of the money we earn.
Let’s get into the list:
Email: Fastmail or ProtonMail
We’ve used Fastmail since we started Fathom. It’s, well, to put it obviously, fast. It’s also pretty easy to create additional users for other folks in your company, as well as aliases, for things like support@, newsletter@, etc. Their pricing also starts at $3/month. The added bonus is they don’t serve ads based on what they read in your emails.
Yes, we use Fastmail a lot. Luckily, they also offer Calendars, which can sync locally to whatever calendar software you use. Invites to calendar events are just as easy as anything in Google Calendar.
Newsletter: Sendstack (soon!)
There isn’t any great privacy-focused newsletter software out there that we’ve been able to find, but SendStack looks promising. Their commitment to never have tracking pixels is something we agree on. We’re currently using Mailchimp to send campaigns, but since you can’t turn off tracking pixels in automations, we’re pretty limited by their features if we want to adhere to that.
Docs: Standard Notes
Standard Notes is easy to use and fully encrypted for your notes, spreadsheets, tasks, todos, etc. They’ve been in business for five years, never raised VC, and are committed to ethical practices. The only drawback is you can’t share/edit/comment on other people’s notes.
Search Engine: DuckDuckGo
It’s just as easy to search in DDG as it is Google—if you update your default search engine once, you’ll not have to think about it again. They don’t’ collect or share personal information, ever. Just remember to set all your browsers and your devices from the default (Google) to DuckDuckGo.
The privacy settings for “Enhanced Tracking Protection” are pretty good. With an ad-blocker (like DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Essentials) and their “Containers” extension, it’s quite decent at both not being Chrome and keeping Google trackers at bay.
We recently switched to ProtonVPN at Fathom after reading this report from our friends at The Markup because most VPN websites use several trackers (on both their marketing site and their account pages. As well, most have privacy policies that allow for user data collection. ProtonVPN doesn’t do these things, so they win.
Website builder: Kirby (or Jigsaw)
Kirby makes it easy to build a website and blog. Their software isn’t bloated like WordPress and is much more secure. If we needed a quick MVP or blog, we’d use Kirby and be up and running quickly. At Fathom, we use Jigsaw simply because it also runs on Laravel, and it’s easy for us as developers to make it do our bidding with our custom theme.
getkirby.com and jigsaw.tighten.co
File sharing: Sync
End-to-end encryption on the client-side means your data can only be accessed by you on their private cloud. They also don’t collect, sell or share personal data (not even app usage) with advertisers or third parties.
Video calls: Whereby
Instead of Google Meet, why not try a more privacy-focused video call software. Nothing to install or download; just load the meeting URL and go. Their free plan is also very generous.
Podcast recording: Zencastr
Because we’re a remote company, our podcast relies on Zencastr to record Jack and me locally (so there’s no buffering or quality issues). It’s also great when we have guests (zero software for them to install, they just visit a link, like Whereby).
Passwords: 1Password Business
Working remotely with a small team, we need to keep our own passwords secure and also share passwords with other team members. 1Password for business is integral to running our company (using their secure vault sharing).
Advertising: Microsoft Ads
Why not use ads that rely on search intent, with zero personal data attached? That’s how DuckDuckGo does it as well. Their search engine uses Bing Ads—that way, they don’t need to collect data on people; they just show relevant ads based on search words.
ads.microsoft.com/en-ca Bonus: here’s how to advertise on DuckDuckGo.
Instead of using hosted Google Fonts for your brand/website, why not try FontShare instead? They have quality fonts for free, and you can easily host them on your servers. We use one of their striking typefaces for Fathom’s brandmark and website in an upcoming rebrand.
Website analytics: Fathom Analytics
Obviously, we’re going to suggest making your website a blackhole to Big Tech by using Fathom instead of Google Analytics. We’re fully GDPR compliant, and you don’t even need an annoying cookie banner.
In 2022, the world learned that Google Analytics was ruled illegal by the Austrian DPA, and the rest of the EU is likely to follow. The best time to move to a Google Analytics alternative was when we first launched Fathom in 2018. The second best time is now.
It’s also worth mentioning here that some folks feel that self-hosting analytics is the only way not to let third-parties collect personal data from visitors, but Fathom doesn’t collect or store personal data… so it’s just as secure, with the added bonus of not having to set up and maintain the infrastructure required to keep those analytics running quickly and smoothly.
These are just a few ways to DeGoogle
The software listed above are the tools we use and/or love.
There are definitely many more that aren’t tied to Google and focus more on selling you software instead of selling your data behind the scenes.
Remember, getting away from Big Tech isn’t easy. It’s also a process (as we said) and something that can be chipped away at over time.
Here are some additional resources to help you DeGoogle your business and your life:
You might also enjoy reading:
- 2021 Year in Review
- Is Big Tech actually a big problem?
- Let’s make surveillance-based advertising illegal