Alternatives To Google For Better Privacy

If you are ready to ditch Google and their data collecting ways, then this guide is for you. We’ll take a look at the best alternatives to Google that will help protect your privacy.

Google hooked most of the world on it’s free products long before we understood that we were actually paying for them with our personal data.  As the extent of the mass data collection by corporations and government became apparent, privacy concerns began to grow.

What we now know, is that Google collects as much data as possible on us each and every time we use their products.  They’ve inserted themselves in every aspect of our modern lives, through their web browser and search engine, email, phones, and every product with the Google name on it.

They use this data to build profiles on us to better target ads, which is how the company makes the majority of their money.  But it’s believed they also sell or share this data with other advertisers and companies and thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden we know they also share data, even unknowingly, with government agencies.

While Google has tried to clean up their act after numerous privacy black eyes and several lawsuits, it is still one of the most privacy invasive companies around.

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It’s no wonder people are looking for alternatives to Google to take back some of their privacy online.  But with Google being so integrated into our lives it can pose a challenge to leave them behind.

While dropping all Google products is one of the best options if you want to regain some of your online privacy, it won’t be easy to go cold turkey.  A good place to start is replacing some of the applications we’ve been relying on for years with products that are privacy focused.  

We’ll take a look at the best Google replacements that collect no (or much less) personal data and are better for privacy in the following sections.

Gmail Alternatives

If there is one service other than search that is most synonymous with Google it has to be Gmail.  It is one of the most popular free email services on the planet. It is also one of the most unfriendly when it comes to privacy.

Your messages sit on their servers which is troubling enough, but Google has been scanning all emails sent and received from their service.  

While they claim they no longer scan your email for advertising purposes,  if you’ve ever received an email with travel reservations or an invite to an event and then seen it automatically added to your calendar, you’ve seen they are still scanning for other purposes.

They are scanning everything.  Your photos, your receipts, bills – everything that comes into your inbox.  And we don’t know exactly what they are doing with that information.

This is why you want to switch to a secure email provider.  The best alternative to Gmail is a service that encrypts your emails and doesn’t scan them for anything other than malware and viruses.  Here are our top picks.

ProtonMail

I’ve tried a lot of secure email services and Proton Mail was my favorite.  It’s privacy and security features combined with an easy to use modern interface make it my top pick. 

Your emails are stored encrypted on their servers so only you have access to them. And if you email another ProtonMail user your communications are end to end encrypted without you having to do anything.  Your contacts are also encrypted.

They have apps for iOS and Android as well as bridge application you can download if you want to use a desktop email application like Thunderbird or Apple Mail.

They are looking to be a secure and private alternative to GSuite with a collection of products ranging from email, contacts, storage, calendar, and VPN.

The only real knock I’ve heard on the service is that they don’t encrypt the subject line of your emails.  This shouldn’t be much concern to the average user, but those with the utmost privacy needs might want to use a provider like Tutanota below who does encrypt subject lines.

Location: Switzerland  Free Account: Yes (500 MB)

Tutanota

Tutanota is another great option for secure email.  Your messages are secured with end to end encryption and stored encrypted so only you have access to them.  

An encrypted calendar is included as part of the application which is a “nice to have” feature.  The web interface is modern and easy to use and they have apps for Android, iOS, and desktop.

Location: Germany  Free Account: Yes (1 GB)

Mailfence

Mailfence offers a nice suite of privacy focused tools that includes email, calendar, document storage, and contacts.  While the web interface is nice there are no mobile apps for Android or Apple devices or a desktop app, so that is a bit of a downside.

Location: Belgium  Free Account: Yes (500 MB)

A note on encryption

Most of the services listed here use encryption to keep your data safe and private.  The data is encrypted before it leaves your device and only you have the key to decrypt your files.  However, because it is so secure, if you lose your password your data is lost. So make sure your password is stored in a safe place, like a password manager.

Google Chrome Alternatives

If you want to insure that all your activity around the web is being tracked, Google Chrome is your browser to do it.  This tracking doesn’t benefit the user, only the Big G. It is time to switch to a privacy focused browser.

Firefox

In the battle for browser dominance, Firefox has differentiated itself from Chrome by focusing on user privacy.  Firefox is a fast modern browser that is feature packed. It has a good selection privacy settings and add-ons to make your browser more secure.  It’s available on desktop and mobile devices. Just make sure you harder Firefox by adjusting the privacy settings.

Brave

Another option to consider is the Brave web browser.  It is a fast open source and based on Chromium. Brave has ad and tracking blockers built in so no additional add-ons are needed.

Tor Browser

For users that need privacy, security, and a certain level of anonymity on the web, the Tor Browser is the tool of choice.  It is based on the Firefox browser with many privacy enhancements to protect you from digital surveillance, trackers, and browser fingerprinting.

It obfuscates your IP address by routing your connection through several different relays on the network. The added security and privacy comes with a serious hit in performance and most likely won’t be the main browser of choice for everyday browsing or video streaming.  But for certain at risk groups like investigative journalists and human rights workers, it is an invaluable tool.

Google Search Alternatives

The Google search engine is the product that started it all. Google keeps a record of every search anyone ever makes.  You don’t need to be logged into the Chrome browser, Gmail, or Drive for this to happen, although it sure makes it easier for them to link them to you and associate it with your profile.

If you don’t want them to track all your searches there are other other search engines you can use that will respect your privacy and do not collect your search data.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a privacy centric search engine that doesn’t collect or store any data on it’s users.  They don’t build user profiles and there isn’t any data for them to share or sell. Their search algorithm continues to improve and the results are quite good compared to Google.

Startpage

Startpage actually gets it’s search results from google, but strips out all the logging and data collecting. They also offer a unique “View Anonymously” feature that allows you to open the search result through a proxy that doesn’t allow cookies or trackers to be set.  The results are as good as Google because that’s where they get them.

*Startpage was acquired by System1, an advertising company, which does raise questions about its future.  However they do state “Our Privacy division is run separately and independently from the rest of our company.” – so there is hope it will remain focused on privacy.

SearX

SearX is another alternative search engine that doesn’t collect data on its users or build a profile on them. It is a metasearch engine similar to Startpage, so it gets its results from other search engines like Google and Bing, but strips out all the tracking information.

Google Drive Alternatives – Cloud Storage & File Sync

Google Drive is one of the preeminent cloud storage options. It allows you to store and share files online.  Just like the other services from google, it is monitored and scanned with little transparency to what they do with our data.  The only sure way to protect your cloud storage from prying eyes is to use an encrypted cloud storage provider.

Tresorit

Tresorit is the leader in secure online storage.  It features end to end encryption and a zero knowledge system so that only you and whoever you share files with have access to the data.  

You can use Tresorit to sync or selectively sync files to the cloud.  If you don’t wish to sync your files it also allows you to extend your harddrive by storing files in the cloud but access them like they are on a local drive in your computers file manager.

Sync

Sync is another good option for secure online storage.  It offers file syncing and sharing completed with end to end encryption.  It also has a Sync Vault feature which allows you to store your files in the secure cloud without syncing them to other devices.

pCloud

pCloud is another well known provider of cloud storage.  The main drawback is although they do offer zero-knowledge encrypted storage, it is an additional paid option. 

If you aren’t quite ready to part with your Google Drive, consider using an app like Cryptomator which will encrypt your files before sending them to the cloud.

Google Drive Alternatives – Backups

If you use Google to backup your computer to Drive (as opposed to syncing files) it stores copies of your potentially sensitive information online with anyone with the right security credentials to access and they are most likely scanning these documents as well.  

If you are backing up things like photos, tax returns, medical information, this is a big privacy and security risk.  A better option is to use an online backup service that encrypts your data before it leaves your computer and only you have the key to decrypt the information. 

Just like with all other encryption programs, the downside is that it is so secure that if you lose your password you can’t decrypt your data. (It’s a good idea to start using a password manager if you aren’t already)

iDrive

iDrive provides a good alternative for Google drive.  You can backup and sync multiple devices and it even provides for full system imaging.  Your backups are encrypted and you can set a private key for end to end encryption.

Backblaze

Backblaze is probably the most well known name in online backup software.  They provide unlimited backup space and protect your data with encryption. Like iDrive you need to enable the passphrase option for end to end encryption.  

Their pricing is per device, so it can get expensive if you have multiple computers to backup.

Acronis

Another stalwart in the backup software group.  It offers both a local and cloud backup option. Your backup data is protected with AES-256 encryption.  

Google Photos Alternative

Google built a really nice photo application that lets you organize and backup your photos from your phone or desktop.  They are also using your photos to help build their photo recognition software. If you turn on facial recognition Google creates a “template” of every face detected in the photos you upload.

They are scanning and categorizing all your photos through image recognition on their servers.  If you don’t remember “brassiere gate” from a few years back take a look.  While the article is about Apple, which does this locally on your phone to protect privacy, it highlights Google does this in their cloud.

The sad part is Google Photos is one application where it is hard to find a good secure alternative.  If you just want to have your photos backed-up and encrypted, you can use one of the Google Drive replacements listed above.  

However they don’t have any of the nice features associated with a photo app like galleries, tagging, and sharing galleries and individual images.  The best option I’ve found is an application that has been around awhile.

Flickr

Flickr was one of the original photo applications.  As newer photo applications arrived, Flickr fell out of favor.  It’s purchase by Smugmug in 2018 is a good thing, both in terms or privacy and hopes for improvements to the service.

If you install the Flickr app on your phone you can backup your photos to your account as well as upload them through the web.  Flickr only allows 1000 photos on its free tier, which isn’t all that much with the number of photos people take on their smartphones these days.  You can upgrade to a Pro Account for unlimited photo uploads.

Another drawback is Flickr still displays ads on free user accounts.  Uploading to a Pro Account will get you an ad free experience.

While your photos are not going to be encrypted, your data and information is no longer in the hands of Yahoo.  And SmugMug is a photo centric company, not in the advertising or data collection business.

Google Keep Alternative

While Google Keep isn’t the best note taking out on the market, the fact that it comes installed on every Android phone and is tightly integrated with the other Google web applications, makes it a very popular app.  

Standard Notes

Standard Notes is a good note taking app that provides secure end to end encryption.  It has a minimal and clean interface that can be accessed from the web or mobile devices.  Your files will be synced between all your accounts. They offer an enhanced version that adds additional functionality.

Google Docs – Sheets – Slides Alternatives

The Google suite of office productivity apps have come a long way since they were first launched.  They’ve become a quality replacement for desktop apps like Microsoft Office.  

There isn’t a good secure and encrypted Google replacement that has the same functionality.  But if you are looking to move away from Google there are some other options to consider that maybe a little less intrusive.

Zoho Docs

Zoho makes a wide range of business software.  Their Zoho Docs suite of products provide a good word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.  The do encrypt your files at rest and in transit, however they are not a “zero-knowledge” provider, so your they are not the best privacy option.

Microsoft Office Online

Microsoft isn’t very good when it comes to respecting user privacy. But their suit of office tools are some of the best out there.  If you choose to use Office Online in conjunction with replacing other Google services, you will at least be spreading out your information across a diverse set of services making it more difficult for one to collect your data and build a profile on you.

MicroSoft Office & Upload To Secure Cloud Storage

Another option would be to use Microsoft Office on your desktop and upload or sync your files to one of the encrypted cloud storage providers listed above.  The draw back is you will only be able to open and work on these documents on a device where you have both Office and the storage app installed.

Google Calendar Alternatives

Finding a stand alone calendar app to replace Google is a challenge.  I’ve found one good option but is only for Android. A better option might be choosing a mail program that has an integrated Calendar.

Tutanota

Mailfence

Kolab Now

If you want to take a look at the stand alone calendar, it is available in the Playstore.

aCalendar

Google Maps Alternatives

Another tough application to replace is going to be Google maps.  It is by far the best mapping application out there. While there are other options, there are none quite as good.  And if you use Android Auto for navigation you are going to be out of luck. If you are an Apple user their maps have gotten a lot better and they are a good option to consider.

Open Street Maps

Open Street Maps is an option for your desktop.

OsmAnd

OsmAnd has apps for Android and iOS.  It uses Open Street Maps for it’s primary database and works online and offline.  It even does turn by turn navigation.

Google Hangouts Alternatives

Google has never had a great messaging application.  It has gone through many iterations like Gchat, Duo, Hallo, and Hangouts.  The latter being the most popular. You may already be using an alternative.  We’ll cover some of the more secure and private options that use end to end encryption for your messages.  You can also take a look at our full list of secure messaging apps.

Signal

Signal is the go to application for many privacy and security experts.  It uses end to end encryption for messages and voice calls.

Wire

Wire is another secure messaging app that is aimed at business.  However they have a free app for friends and family to communicate securely.

Viber

Viber is based on the technology developed by Signal with additional features added on top.  It uses end to end encryption for privacy on your voice, video calls, and chats. It has stickers and Gifs integrated to make chats more entertaining.  

Line

Line is a very popular messaging app in Asia and is gaining traction in other parts of the world.  It’s a messaging app that combines parts of social media – like sharing posts and feeds. It has secure messaging, voice and video calls.  

Line uses end to end encryption, but it hasn’t covered all aspects of the application yet, so it is not as secure as Signal. It could be a good option if you want to switch away from Facebook messenger or What’s App. and keep your conversations away from their data collection.

Google Analytics Alternatives

If you run a website the chances are good you are using Google Analytics to analyze your website data.  It is the most comprehensive tool available and it’s free. However it is also gives Google access to all of your site and visitor data.  If you want a privacy centered analytics tool the options are slim. I’ve got one option that provides good tools and keeps you in control of the data.

Matamoto

Matamoto (formerly Piwik) provides an analytics platform where you control the data you collect and it isn’t shared with any companies like Google.

Like replacing most of Google’s products, there is a cost in controlling your data, and Matamoto is not a free analytics platform if you use their cloud service.  

They do offer a free on premises version which has limited functionality that you can host and maintain yourself, however you need to be technically minded or have an IT staff at your company.  

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