Google provides a range of services, such as Search and Maps, which make our daily lives much easier. Most of these are free, which only makes them more popular.
But people are increasingly aware of privacy risks associated with using Google services. These risks stem from Google’s business model, which is based on data collection and sharing to create targeted ads.
Moving away from Google isn’t easy, but knowledge of the available alternatives helps make the process easier. In this article, we provide alternatives to Google’s most popular services, including:
- Brave instead of Chrome
- DuckDuckGo in place of Google Search
- pDrive instead of Google Drive
- Piwigo in place of Google Photos
- ProtonMail as opposed to GMail
- OpenStreetMaps instead of Google Maps
- DTube to replace YouTube
- /e/ instead of Android
Read the entire article to learn more about why you should look for Google alternatives and which alternatives to choose!
Countless individuals across the world use Google products. In fact, seven of its services, such as Search and Photos, each have more than a billion monthly active users! The ease of use, wide variety, and zero cost attract all kinds of customers to Google’s apps.
However, people are increasingly aware of the privacy concerns associated with using Google’s free services. They are now looking to move away from Google to safeguard their privacy. Unfortunately, their attempts at switching away are hampered by a lack of information on Google alternatives.
This article provides alternatives to some of Google’s most popular products. It also explains why and how Google provides its services for free, and what this means for your privacy.
Google Chrome Alternatives
Chrome is Google’s browser and your window to the Internet. It commands 65% of the global browser market, despite a poor reputation for privacy. In fact, it’s Google’s most powerful data-gathering tool.
It also exerts considerable processing loads on your devices, which can slow down their performance. So, it’s a clever idea to ditch Chrome and move to a different browser. We suggest choosing one of the options below.
1. Tor Browser
Tor has established itself as a household name when it comes to private and anonymous browsing. It uses NoScript to mask your activity from websites you visit and even deletes cookies after every session. Its three-layer protection coupled with a good VPN can make you a digital ghost. That said, Tor can be quite slow and isn’t recommended for streaming content online.
Brave, which was launched in 2016, is based on Chromium. As a result, it retains some of Chrome’s much-liked features in a less privacy-invasive browser. It’s more secure than Chrome and faster than Tor. It also has a few nifty security features, like built-in ad-blocking and the ability to secure non-HTTPS links. Brave is not fully ad-free, however, as it launched its own ad program in 2019. Still, it doesn’t use any of your information to personalize these ads. Important to mention is that Brave got caught up in an affiliate referral scandal in 2020, as result of an auto-complete feature error. Although this issue has since been solved, it shows how important it is to always be critical of the tools you use to access the internet.
3. Mozilla Firefox
Firefox has been one of Chrome’s biggest competitors for a while. It’s different from Chrome, as it does not sell your information to third parties for ads. The Mozilla Foundation is a not-for-profit organization and operates Firefox in a transparent and open-source manner. Of course, enabling Firefox’s privacy and security features requires customization, which can be daunting for some users. You should also note that Firefox is quite RAM-hungry, like Chrome, and can slow down old machines.
Our article on the best internet browsers for your privacy provides a deep dive into these three browsers and several others.
Google Search Alternatives
Using Google Search to find relevant information is so quick and easy that most people fail to consider the privacy implications of its use.
To deliver its highly personalized results, Google tracks your IP address, search queries, and assigns a unique ID that monitors the sites you visit and links you click on. Hence, it becomes important to consider privacy-focused alternatives which collect minimal personal information. Three of those are listed below:
Startpage.com is an excellent privacy-focused search engine that is based on Google’s results database, without the loggers and trackers. This means you’re likely to get similarly comprehensive results minus the personalized ads.
DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most popular privacy-friendly search alternative to Google. It combines multiple sources, including Yahoo!, Wikipedia, and its own web crawler to offer impressive search results. Additionally, it uses the Tor Network, which makes it even harder to track activity online. You can find out more about DuckDuckGo and its anonymity here.
Qwant is a France-based secure search engine. Its appeal is the features it provides in addition to basic search. For instance, it provides up-to-date news and trends on its homepage. It also allows you to search for music. Qwant Maps even offers one of the viable alternatives to Google Maps (which will be covered later).
For more information, read our article on the best privacy-friendly search engines!
Google Drive Alternatives
Google Drive provides a one-stop solution for all your cloud storage needs. You even get 15 GB free just by creating an account. Its availability across platforms makes it even more appealing. Despite all this, it’s still a part of Google’s surveillance structure. Luckily, there are quite a few secure alternatives to Drive:
pCloud is one of the leading alternatives to Drive for individuals, especially because it comes with a free 10 GB plan. It also has some of Drive’s most appealing features, including seamless document sharing and cross-platform functionality. This is all packaged with secure client-side encryption and zero-knowledge privacy.
Tresorit is emerging as a user-friendly file hosting and sharing service. It’s based in Switzerland and is compliant with GDPR. This means it offers some of the highest privacy protections around. Its focus on data residency flexibility, third-party audit, as well as source code testing, make it a very appealing option for corporates and large enterprises. It is, however, slightly expensive for individual users.
Nextcloud is different from the other alternatives listed above, as it is a self-hosting solution that’s free and open-source (FOSS). This means that your data is stored in your own data center, or a server managed by you, instead of floating around in the cloud. These features make it an attractive option for those looking to exercise full control over their data while still allowing for collaboration and sharing through Nextcloud’s suite of products.
Google Photos Alternatives
Google Photos is an extremely popular service, particularly because it used to offer unlimited uploads of high-quality photos. Additionally, Google Photos also uses image recognition and AI to edit photos and make them look even better.
However, starting June 2021, Google is fixing a 15GB limit even on high-quality photo uploads. This has led to many users looking for replacements that offer the same functionality and convenience. Some of these are:
iDrive is a veteran file hosting service that provides some unique features for photographers. It has a free 5GB plan, which might be sufficient for amateur users. Even for professionals, it offers a generous 5TB at the cost of $52.12/year. It’s highly secure as it encrypts data both when it is at rest and in transit.
Piwigo provides a handy option for users interested in self-hosting servers on which they store their images. The software itself is FOSS, meaning you only need to pay your hosting provider. It supports easy uploads from multiple devices and editing tools, like Lightroom. Features like batch management make it easier to organize and share photos with family, friends, and clients.
3. Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe is one the leaders when it comes to photo management and editing tools. For Adobe users, its Creative Cloud offers a perfect solution to store and transfer photos and videos across its different software on all your devices. However, it may not be suitable as a standalone photo storage solution given its high cost and deep integration with Adobe tools.
Gmail is one of the most widely used mail services. Its sheer scale of use makes it very susceptible to privacy threats. It has been reported that Google not only scans through the content of your emails to deliver ads, but also shares this information with third-party apps in certain contexts.
Your emails usually contain an incredible amount of personal, sensitive, and secret information, so it is ideal to switch to a provider that respects your privacy. Some options for you to consider include:
The name ProtonMail may sound familiar to most readers as it has significantly grown its user base in the past few years. Based out of Switzerland, ProtonMail features high-level end-to-end encryption, is open source and requires no personal information to register. You can sign up for free and get storage up to 500MB, which can be expanded by opting for a paid plan. ProtonMail also offers well-designed apps across all major operating systems.
The creators of Startpage have brought their expertise in security and privacy to mail with StartMail. The service has some exceptional privacy features such as PGP encryption, 2FA and support for burner accounts and aliases. However, they offer no free service, meaning you’ll have to pay to use StartMail. There are also no native mobile apps as yet.
The mail provider of choice for journalists, researchers, and professionals dealing with sensitive information is Tutanota. This was one of the first services to provide end-to-end encryption in 2011 and it has built a formidable reputation for privacy protection since then. The fact that it’s open-source lends further credibility and transparency to its operations.
Google Maps Alternatives
There is little doubt that Google Maps offers unparalleled navigation, directions, and points of interest. But it also tracks and stores your location when using the app and creates a timeline of places you’ve visited.
While it’s necessary to collect some amount of location data to offer navigation services, the following services do so in a more privacy-friendly manner than Google:
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is hailed as the Wikipedia of maps as it’s based on contributions from volunteer users. This means you can suggest changes or add maps to locations where their coverage is lacking. OSM is primarily web-based and doesn’t have too many features besides basic navigation and direction. It has a large repository of maps, which is used by other alternative apps, like Maps.me.
Maps.Me is a service that is based on OSM’s database. It provides maps for more than 300 countries and islands. The app is primarily meant for offline use, though the online version provides added information on public transport and traffic. The points of interest are well-categorized, and it even allows you to share hiking trails. Maps.Me is an open-source platform and uses minimal information to offer it services. It does, however, use your location data to provide some ads. However, this data is not linked to a personal profile.
3. Sygic Maps
Sygic Maps is another great secure alternative to Google Maps. It’s based in Europe and compliant with GDPR privacy requirements. It offers navigation, lane guidance, and parking spot availability information in some countries. Travelers and tourists may find its travel guides and TripAdvisor recommendations to be very helpful.
YouTube is the most popular platform when it comes to sharing and streaming video content. It also offers numerous methods for creators to monetize their content.
YouTube is entirely centralized. This means that it has full control over what is shared on the platform and can choose to take down any content. Its search algorithm is also designed to consistently feed you personalized content based on your watched history. This creates an echo chamber or filter bubble that limits engagement with new and organic content.
The apps suggested below are your best bet at breaking out of the YouTube echo chamber:
DTube is an entirely decentralized platform. It exists on a blockchain. This means it isn’t controlled by a central entity, like YouTube. It also doesn’t have a recommendation algorithm. Instead, content is managed by its community. Due to its decentralized nature, DTube is censorship-free. Finally, DTube allows content creators to earn profits through cryptocurrency.
PeerTube is another open-source and decentralized alternative to YouTube funded by a French not-for-profit organization. It allows users to self-host servers, or “instances”, on which content is then uploaded. By doing so, it avoids the central control that other video services like YouTube and Vimeo exercise over their user’s content. Additionally, it also offers integration with other popular open-source social media platforms, such as Mastodon.
Besides DTube and PeerTube, there are other alternatives to YouTube available as well, but we’ve decided not to include those for a variety of reasons. Some, like Vimeo, use personal data to create targeted ads. Others, like BitChute, started out as censorship-free video hosting platforms, but quickly morphed into platforms that promote hate speech and misinformation. For these reasons, we wouldn’t recommend them and advise you to be careful when you do decide to use them.
Android is the operating system for most non-Apple smartphones and even some laptops. It is, however, designed with several of Google’s services at its core. For instance, most phones running Android require you to log in to a Google account for full functionality. Similarly, Google search is the default search option on most Android phones. To break out of this lock-in effect created by Android, consider the following alternatives:
/e/ is an Android distribution that provides a completely open-source experience. It replaces Google’s services with its own and uses FOSS software as much as possible. It supports 112 devices and is updated regularly. The app store in /e/ is based on F-Droid (an open-source alternative to the Play Store) and allows users to install some of the more popular Android apps. The only drawback is that installing /e/ might prove challenging for most users.
When it comes to replicating the Android experience without Google’s apps, there are few better options than LineageOS. A fork of the immensely popular CyanogenMod, Lineage provides a stock Android experience in an open-source environment. The wide range of devices it supports also adds to its popularity.
Note: In curating this list, we have omitted software and services provided by other “BigTech” companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. After all, the services provided by these companies feature some of the same privacy risks we are trying to avoid by moving away from Google.
Why do I Need Alternatives to Google?
The answer to this question lies in understanding Google’s business model, which is based on data collection. The data it collects from users is used to target them with ads. Google earns revenue from the service providers who pay for these ads. In fact, the company raked in more than $45 billion of ad revenue in the first quarter of 2021 alone.
So, Google is actually earning from the personal and sensitive data that it collects from you. When you think about it this way, Google’s services aren’t free, as you’re paying for them with your data.
In 2019, Google was fined $57 million by the EU as it was guilty of not disclosing to users how the data it collected could impact their privacy. Repeated instances of such privacy violations hamper your online security and privacy, which is why it’s important to look for privacy-friendly alternatives to Google.
How Does Google Collect Data?
Google uses a variety of techniques and methods, including cookies and browser fingerprinting, to track your activity across the web. The collected data is used to create a unique profile of your interests and behavior patterns. The profile can then be used to tailor and target ads that are specifically suited to you.
Google has tried to address tracking and data collection concerns by committing to a complete phase-out of cookies by 2023. However, its new FloC technology, which will replace cookies, has not inspired much confidence amongst privacy enthusiasts. They fear that it’s no different from third-party cookies and may even be worse.
Is There a Privacy-Friendly Way to Use Google?
Let’s face it. Google’s apps are incredibly convenient to use. They integrate seamlessly with each other, and you only need one account to access them all. Additionally, several companies and workspaces depend on Google Workspace to conduct business. This leaves many people wondering whether there’s a more private way to use Google.
There are a few things that you can do to make your use of Google more private.
You can understand and take charge of your privacy settings to minimize tracking and targeting by Google. Read our Google privacy settings guide for more information.
You could also consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and that will encrypt and protect your online activity and information. Combined with a solid adblocker and browser extensions like Ghostery and Privacy Badger, you can reach some more privacy and security whilst browsing.
Implementing the above steps will certainly help maintain your online privacy. If you want to live a Google-free life, you should adopt a holistic strategy, which requires a gradual shift to other services.
Some of you may have specific questions that you need quick and short answers to. Or you might be looking for alternatives to services not listed above. If that’s the case, refer to the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about Google Alternatives below.
Please let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed out by leaving a comment in the comments section.
Google collects a lot of personal information about you through its different services and products. This information is often shared with third parties to personalize and target ads. These practices give rise to concerns over one’s privacy and security online. Hence, it’s better to consider privacy-friendly alternatives to Google.
Google’s document suite offers several features. Its functionality has improved a lot recently, and it’s a real threat to Microsoft Office. However, privacy concerns arise with both services. Some private alternatives are:
- Collabora Online
If you’re looking for other alternatives to Google’s services, you can read about those here.
Google controls the apps that you can install on your phone through the Play Store. While you can find and download APKs from online sources, these can contain viruses and harm your device. Some secure alternatives are:
- Aurora Store
With the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been looking for video-calling solutions. A few secure alternatives to Google’s services include:
- Signal – for secure conversations with individuals or small groups
- Join.me – for conversations with larger groups
A comprehensive list of secure video-conferencing solutions is available here.