Here we are moving rapidly into the 21st century, that moment in space and time where tracking what we do is not only the domain of government; these days companies track you for profit. Other than going off the grid entirely is it possible to live a modern technology lifestyle of internet access and not be tracked.
What you can do is limit the amount of tracking conducted against you and your right to privacy but it requires a bit of effort, some diligence, and an acknowledgement that even your best efforts may go unrewarded, although there might be comfort in knowing that everyone else’s laundry is more visible to the trackers than yours.
The question is basic. “Can you go completely ‘Google Free‘ and still be a good Apple customer?’
Whereby ‘be a good Apple customer‘ means you still get to use a Mac, iPhone, iPad, et al for their intended purposes.
Why go ‘Google Free?‘ Unfortunately, most internet users- Apple’s customers and more especially everyone else- don’t know what Google does other than, 1) provide search engine results, and, 2) give away software for free, 3) inundate websites with advertising, and, 4) makes enormous profits by culling your personal data.
You’ve heard it said that there is ‘no such thing as a free lunch.’ Google’s software- whether Gmail or Google Maps or the Chrome browser or the Google search engine or whatever- is not free. While most people don’t fork over cash in exchange for using Google’s apps, the agreement is basic. Google is allowed to track you, rummage through your email messages, scan your photos, and track your whereabouts online.
See? Not free.
When you browse various websites Google probably tracks your online movements more than any other entity, thanks to Google Analytics trackers, Google AdSense advertising, search engine results, and other trackers which gather data that finds its way back to Google’s growing data mountain to be sliced and diced and sold to advertisers.
How can you become Google Free? Here’s my basic list:
- Stop using Google search (DuckDuckGo is a good non-tracking alternative)
- Stop using Gmail (non-tracking email accounts are easily available)
- Stop using Chrome (Google makes a free browser for a reason; tracking)
- Stop using Google apps (whatever they are, they’re designed to track you)
- Start using an ad blocker on your browsers (more details here and here)
Those steps alone will reduce the number of tracking attempts by an order of magnitude (it’s an educated guess, a guesstimate; not actually based in the science of tracking) and make it more difficult for these massive tracking entities to know more about you than you’re willing to give.
That said, some tracking will continue as you browse online, and use various applications on your Mac or iPhone, but you can sleep a bit better at night knowing that Google’s attempts to know more about you than your spouse or parents has been throttled.
Privacy is to be valued. What you do online should not be someone else’s business and the agreement Google makes with users (you’re not really a customer at Google; you’re part of the product) is not clearly understood by the vast majority of internet users. Earlier this year I removed tracking cookies, tracking scripts, Google Analytics, and Google AdSense ads from my site, McSolo; part of a concerted effort by a growing number of websites to put the scourge of offensive tracking in its place and provide readers with an improved reading experience.
Apple provides customers with methods that can help to reduce tracking and increase privacy, so kudos to the Mac maker for that. Safari can take ad blockers. Mail handles all sorts of email accounts (and Apple provides iCloud email for free). Apple Maps does not use data against you. Safari can handle multiple search engine options.