Benjamin Ellis

Benjamin Not Ben – Jamin on the Net

A Week Without Google – Day 1

On my posterous blog this morning I posted a challenge:

A Week Without Google… …For me at least. This week I’m going to be going without Google in my life. It was a conversation with @monkchips that finally pushed me over the edge.

As he held up his Google branded phone to take a picture that with probably end up on a Google-powered photo site, indexed by Google search-bots, published on Google powered blogs, with Google-powered ads, viewed in Google built web browsers, maybe even on a Google built operating system, I thought of something I over heard recently:

“Big Brother won’t come in via the front door, he’ll come in via the backdoor, and pretend to be your friend.”

Now for the record, I have nothing against Google – I normally use lots of Google tools (and even paid-for Google products) – But I’ve realised that I don’t have a grip on how pervasive a part of my Internet use Google is.

The basic nature of the challenge is to avoid using any Google products – either through conscious choice or even indirectly. That means not only not using the products, but also not letting Google get hold of any of my behavioural data (information about sites I visit or things I search for). People have  variously said:

  • That will be impossible – we’ll see!
  • That will be easy – we’ll see on that too!
  • Why would you want to?

To answer the last is that I’m just curious as to how pervasive a part of my Internet experience Google has become and how much data they really are amassing.  The only way to really know is to pay some attention to it for a few days, so why not a week? At the end of day 1 I have to say I’m quite shocked. I’ll post a full summary at the end of the week, but here are some of my observations from today:

The easiest thing to sort out was my iPod touch: I switched the default search engine to Yahoo, then didn’t use it all day. Done. Why can I only choose between Yahoo! and Google from the iPod touch browser, Apple? On my desktop machine I’ve been using Microsoft’s Bing, but that hasn’t been easy, what with my machine being an Apple Mac.

Firstly, I didn’t realise that Safari uses a “Google Safe Browsing” service, so that had to be switched off in settings before I could do anything else on my Mac. It actually looks like it is broken at the moment, as Safari says there have been no updates for two days.  One click in preferences and it was gone.

Here’s an insane thing: I couldn’t change the default search engine in Sarafi – the setting that I’m SURE used to be there is GONE! The site with instructions on switching Google off in the Safari web browers, returned by the Bing.com search engine, had both Google Friend Connect AND Google analytics, as well as google ads and google blog search on it. Doh! Foiled there as each of those services passes data back to Google, and so is off limits this week.

Then a found a YouTube video showing me how to change my default search engine – but of course I couldn’t watch that as it was on YouTube, which is another Google service and, incidentally, the world’s number two search destination.

Finally I thought, ok, I’ll just take “search” off of the safari tool bar. Would you believe I can’t remove the search box with out removing the address bar too? Apple, what where you thinking? Do they really love Google that much?

search

So, in the default Apple Mac web browser, I can either have Google search, or not surf the Internet. Nice touch. Time to find a new browser. Luckily there is a new browser for the Mac, Chrome, from ummmm… Oh, Google.  Time to fire up Firefox then, and change the default search engine on that…

Incidentally, Google launched five new services last week: 5 Fabulous New Features Google Unveiled Today. I know that one, Google Goggles, has already had some functionality disabled (the face recognition piece) over privacy concerns. I’d tell you more about the other new services, but the post is on ReadWriteWeb, which has ads from DoubleClick on it. Can you guess who now owns DoubleClick? Yup… That would be Google.

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Posted in Technology 4 years, 7 months ago at 12:07 am by Benjamin.

25 comments

25 Replies

  1. On the face of it I’d have thought it easy for me to avoid Google though their Ads are all over the place.

  2. Benjamin Ellis Dec 15th 2009

    Indeed – I’m less worried about the Ads – it seems fair that content providers can make a business – would be nice to see a bit more competition in the market though!

    The more eye opening thing has been quite how many products there are and how commonly they are used – much more than I had realised.

  3. Are you going to avoid any site using Google Analytics? Or block them?

    I’m guessing that the task will test your ingenuity and understanding of manuals to keep Google out.

    Good luck!

  4. Perhaps if you could find the information on Googles ip’s or all the addresses they use, you could block them in the hosts file.
    eg.
    127.0.0.1 *.google.com

  5. Hi Benjamin, you are still using Google Analytics in this blog…………

  6. When will Google buy Microsoft? Or, should they just crush them and pick up the gems?

  7. This site has Google Analytics!?

  8. Brian Hancock Dec 15th 2009

    It’s nice to see others that have gotten a wake up call regarding Google recently. I work in Internet Marketing and therefore am intimately aware of how much data Google tracks and stores, but the recent interview with their CEO was eye opening and showed a total lack of concern regarding privacy issues.

    I haven’t gone as extreme as you have, but I have stopped using Google search (except when I need to for work) and stopped using Chrome entirely.

    I look forward to following your progress and really enjoyed this article.

  9. Big Dave's Gusset Dec 15th 2009

    Andy has the right idea – fill up your hosts file with references to all the google and google-owned domains, and you can carry on surfing the internet as normal – you will just find that loads of sites will randomly be missing bits :-) Would be very demonstrative, I expect :-)

    Love from BDG

    P.S. I’m using SRWare Iron (http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php) as my browser. How does that sit?

  10. is the most funny idea I heard recently….

    :)) I’ve come across this article by accident while browsing away thru my Google Reader feeds

    let me know how you can avoid Google Trends, Webmaster Tools, Toolbar and so on.

  11. Wow, excellent challenge

    For search you could try the Scroogle.org scraper (although maybe doesnt count for your test since it scrapes results from Google)

    otherwise StartPage.com

  12. Benjamin Ellis Dec 16th 2009

    Indeed I was (gone now) – I don’t see the Google java script via WordPress’s admin interface (which I post form)

  13. Hi Benjamin,
    Your site is still indexed by Google Search Engin :)
    It is a very simple test.
    Just have to type this sysntex in the search filed:
    “site:” (without quotes) and you your site appears, that means your site is indexed.
    You can remove it from Google index by adding robot.txt file on ur site. More details as to how is done is on the Google Help page :)

    Best regards,
    Subbu.

  14. oops the syntex got cut off
    syntex is
    site:benjaminellis.org

  15. Benjamin Ellis Dec 16th 2009

    @Subbu – you are right – yet another front to consider :)

  16. Benjamin Ellis Feb 24th 2010

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t follow up on my own post byt I’m a bit blow way by this on CNET news – Tom Krazit has even copied the error about iPhone search that I have in the post here!

  17. ukfella Mar 23rd 2010

    Google derive around 1.25billion in revinue in the UK and yet pay less than £600,000 in tax!!

  18. This is exactly why I don’t have a Droid phone; I’m not willing to give Google all that information so easily. It’s enough that they have almost everything else I do on-line. I have to draw the line somewhere.

  19. While Google makes life easier and is very helpful with a lot of things, I have a serious problem with the monopoly they have over the internet. Before we know it, we will be fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger and SkyNet


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