10.21.20

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Ways and Means to Reduce One’s Dependency on Google’s Various Monopolies and Near-Monopolies

Posted in Antitrust, Free/Libre Software, Google, GPL, Microsoft, Servers at 10:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LibertyBits 2019 - 18 - Richard Stallman - Mass Surveillance
Richard Stallman just weeks before he was pushed out of his office to help MIT save face

Summary: Getting rid of Google means a lot more than embracing DumbDumbGo (DDG) or some other sites that spy just like Google; we’re taking stock of some options

THE legal action against Google wasn’t misguided. It was likely selective, however, guided in part by Microsoft lobbyists (years in the making). Putting Microsoft’s role aside, Google is a problem. Monopolies are a problem. Market dominance reduces the incentive to improve and can harm people in a variety of ways.

Maybe by mere coincidence, only hours before the lawsuit was unveiled Planet OpenSUSE had this post entitled “Migrating away from Google services” (we’ll come back to it later).

“One popular alternative to Google or rather a YouTube sieve (offering the same material sans the surveillance and ads) recently shut down.”Now, let’s consider practical solutions to the Google problem. Monopolies like YouTube for instance…

Yesterday Debian announced its “donation for Peertube development,” noting that “[t]his year’s iteration of the Debian annual conference, DebConf20, had to be held online, and while being a resounding success, it made clear to the project our need to have a permanent live streaming infrastructure for small events held by local Debian groups. As such, Peertube, a FLOSS video hosting platform, seems to be the perfect solution for us.”

One popular alternative to Google or rather a YouTube sieve (offering the same material sans the surveillance and ads) recently shut down. APIs and lawyers had also similarly killed Scroogle (not to be mistaken for Microsoft’s rogue AstroTurfing campaign). We’re talking about invidio.us here, being a YouTube alternative. But it was Free software-based (GNU Affero General Public License, version 3.0), so other instances of it still exist. It should be noted that some are unsavoury and are linked to bad people, some are not.

yewtu.be is one alternative of interest — at least until Google’s lawyers shut it down using threats. In yewtu.be one can escape annoying Google ads, spying (JavaScript) and spurious pop-ups urging viewers to “log in” (it got a lot worse recently). yewtu.be also supports embedding videos, searching (however limited, better insert direct YouTube URLs into the search box as a starting point).

Scroogle screenshotRegarding search, the decentralised approach works better because Startpage turned into a scam; along with other so-called ‘private’ search engines it was quietly passed into the claws of surveillance giants. The same is true for DumbDumbGo (DDG), where many people still dumbly go to spew/infuse personal information (because of empty promises and plenty of misleading marketing campaigns). SearX instances keep going up and down, but the one which nowadays works reliably (and has worked for months) is searx.feneas.org (not recommended on the basis of deep research into how they handle their data).

Google News is a near-monopoly when it comes to indexing news in (almost) real-time. I’ve never managed to find a solid and reliable alternative to it. Google News isn’t consistent either (more and more spammy results in it over time), so I rely on it a lot less. Google News is pretty much the only Google service I cannot fully get rid of.

Apparently many people out there still rely a great deal on Blogspot, GMail and various other non-essential ‘services’ (to which plenty of good alternatives exist). People who can’t figure out how to get rid of Blogspot and GMail are probably a ‘lost cause’ when it comes to ridding them of Google. Seriously, how hard can it be to just open an E-mail account somewhere like GMX or ProtonMail? Then telling people, over time, about the new address? I myself haven’t had such issues since 2003 when I registered my own domain and managed all my mail there (about 20 E-mail accounts to separate the wheat from spam/chaff, mostly with aliases).

Going back to the post from Planet OpenSUSE, it says this:

My inbox tells me I started using GMail around 2004. The oldest mail I can find in my archive is from 16 years ago. After Gmail, Google Photos, Keep, Docs, Drive and Fit followed.

I have reasons to stop. Whether your reasons are privacy, the U.S. as a data harbor, GMail becoming sluggish, karma for killing Inbox, fear about getting your account locked, or you found a better email provider, the objective of this post is not to convince you about my reasons but to help you with a migration plan and showing you alternatives.

Breaking the dependency on Google services is really hard. This dependency was a showstopper and motivator at the same time. If you are locked-in at this level, something is wrong.

This is correct. Take time and invest effort to become technically and technologically independent, or at least less prone to abuse (censorship, surveillance and so on).

Google isn’t the most harmful company to us GNU/Linux/BSD users who value software freedom. But Google poses a great threat to privacy — probably a more potent and long-lasting threat (in that particular domain/aspect) than Microsoft ever will.

Like we’ve said countless times before, getting rid of Microsoft isn’t enough. If we get rid of one brand only to be abused by another, then we’re simply not aiming correctly. To a lot of people out there, their ‘activism’ (or principle) boils down to “I’ll swap Microsoft with Apple” (basically defecting between brands). Right now in Manchester they have a massive marketing campaign (billboards and all) associating iPhone with “privacy”; we always get a kick out of it, as if iPhone users covering their faces with a tracking device (with microphone and multiple cameras, not to mention back doors) is “privacy”… Apple is just ‘pulling a DumbDumbGo’.

Image credit: By Ewald, Fair use

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