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How to ditch Google for more privacy and fewer ads

Derek Walter | Sept. 10, 2014
Tired of targeted ads? Protect your user data with these alternatives to Google, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Drive.

Google's search engine, browser, and other products present a Faustian bargain: In exchange for excellent, free Google services your data is used for advertising. And for some it's getting to be too much.

If you've decided that keeping all your eggs in one online basket is unwise, there are viable alternatives. Some are arguably not as full-featured as what Google has. But using your email without ads or knowing that performing a web search won't result in a ton of related advertisements may be enough to encourage you to go on a Google-free diet.

Replace Google Search with DuckDuckGo
The first step is often the hardest, and such is the case with ditching Google search. The number two search engine in the United States is Bing, but if you're concerned about privacy, jumping from Google to Microsoft may not get you far. Fortunately there is DuckDuckGo, whose privacy policy is simple: it does not collect or share any private information.

Much of the way DuckDuckGo looks and functions reminds me of the early days of Google search, when the startup from Mountain View was cutting through the clutter of sites like AltaVista. It recently underwent a redesign and now has search for specific categories like images, local, weather, recipes, and others. It also now performs an autosuggest.

Whereas Google will adjust what you see based on location and various other factors, The DuckDuckGo search results you get from California are supposed to be the same as someone searching from New Jersey. It's interesting to see how the results turn out when not tied to a specific account. You can also use a "bang" command to search a specific site. For example, if you wanted to find a particular image on Pinterest you would type, "!Pinterest" in the search bar, along with what you're trying to find. 

DuckDuckGo's search results come from its own crawler (named DuckDuckBot, of course) and over 100 different sources, such as Yandex, Wolfram Alpha, and Bing. You can also take the search engine mobile with its apps for iOS and Android.

Replace Chrome with Firefox
For the best browser alternative, go with Mozilla's Firefox. The non-profit company is a pretty strong advocate for user privacy

Firefox has led much of the innovation around the web, such as tabbed browsing and extensions. Its interface is very minimalistic, and it's borrowed the concept of putting the tabs on top of the address bar from Chrome, so it should feel familiar.

Google is the default search engine in Firefox, but you can easily change it to DuckDuckGo. Just head to the search home page, and you'll be prompted to add it to the search bar with one click. 


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