Migrating Away from Gmail and Google – A Pain but Worth the Effort

  • Comments: 36
  • Written on: May 27th, 2010

I love Google.  I like Google’s innovation, their easy-to-use technology and the competition they bring to the marketplace.

But I don’t love Google sticking its nose into every corner of my life, recording every website I visit, every email and attachment I send, and tracking my GPS location through my cell phone.

I have been growing more protective of my privacy over the past few months, and Google’s recent WiFi spying revaluation has made me even more concerned.

While Google claims the spying was inadvertent I find it hard to believe that a whole team of data engineers looked at the raw amount of data that was collected and said, oh yeah…  that is just a bunch of WiFi locations.

Coming from a guy who was one mouse click away from buying a Nexus One phone from Google’s store, you might understand that I try to give Google the benefit of the doubt. But not any more.  It is time for rash actions.

Goodbye Gmail

The biggest intrusion into my life by far is Gmail. Like hundreds of thousands of others I eagerly agreed to let Google read my email, archive my attachments in Google Docs, and display relevant ads on which I have never clicked.  It seemed like a great deal.

By itself, it probably is.  However, if you have ever sent an email and regretted it, if you have ever attached the wrong document to an email, or if you have foolishly included credit card numbers or other personal it is all archived for eternity at Google – even if you delete your Google Account.  I am not ok with that.

For about $10 a month I got a private IMAP account from Rackspace.com and now all of my email moves through that IMAP in the same way it did before with Google.  My phone, desktop, and webmail are all synchronized in beautiful, silent privacy.  I love it.

Goodbye Google Toolbar

The next step it to uninstall the Google Toolbar and remove the Google Gears extension from my Firefox browser.

The Google Toolbar tracks every website your browser visits, and when cross-referenced with the pervasive cookie that is present on your computer when you log into any Google Service, the G-Master knows what web pages you look at, what you search for, what videos you prefer on YouTube, and even the data you place in certain forms on websites.

It is time for me to close that door of information as well.  I don’t plan on using many Google Services anyway, so Gears won’t be too much of a problem.

AdWords and AdSense

I am not ditching AdWords and AdSense and its not just the great money I make as an AdSense publisher or the customers I can attract to Schrock Innovations using AdWords.

AdSense and AdWords have a clear revenue model.  Google is buying and selling advertising.  It’s a marketplace where money is exchanged for advertising.

When you use Google’s free products you are trading your privacy for the use for the free product.  I am no longer willing to pay that price – especially when I can get similar services for such a small amount of money.

So Am I Paranoid or Just Realistic?

People I have talked to either think I am nuts that Google gives a damn about what I am doing in my computing time and others see the potential for privacy abuse in the future.

I am afraid of so much personal information being stored about me in one place because history has shown that in times of economic and political strife, private companies do things they would not ordinarily do.

Take it a step further…  Lets say a state or the Federal government decides they want to charge you retroactive sales taxes on everything you have bought using Google Checkout.  They can use the courts to FORCE Google to hand over their treasure trove of your personal information.

If you thinks that scenario is nuts, watch out – its already happening right now to Amazon in South Carolina.  See below from the Charlotte Observer:

Unable to get Amazon.com to collect the taxes, the state recently began an audit of online businesses, trying to track down what it assumes are millions of dollars in uncollected taxes. The state has told Amazon that it wants buyers’ names and the amounts they spent. That state also needs to know the general categories of spending, like books or movies or food, because some items are tax exempt. Amazon has refused to comply, claiming in federal court that North Carolina may be able to learn the titles of books and movies that its customers have bought, imperiling privacy and free speech. North Carolina officials have said they are not seeking those details. Now it is up to the court to decide whether Amazon will have to reveal the names of customers, without titles.

So would Google go to bat for you? Who knows.

You can’t trust Google implicitly because they are a business created to generate profits. In most cases protecting privacy is key to generating profits, but if governments demand a fat check from the G-Master OR the names of others to collect from, what do you think they would hand over?

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