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?
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.