Recently I have been talking more and more about the security and privacy of software applications/services with friends and acquaintances. Conversations start somewhere on an unrelated topic and eventually land on emails, chats, or other applications. What a great place to start talking about security and privacy.

With new acquaintances, conversations start with a flare and peek of interest when I tell them I do not use Gmail or other Google products. Not just Google products but many of the usual suspects too. Some are surprised that there are alternatives to Google products and the usual suspects. Those that we have accepted as part of digital life at face value.

This post is a rundown of what I couldn’t explain in detail during those conversations. Still, I would not consider this writing comprehensive. I have covered just the essentials - touched the tip of the iceberg.

Take what you read in this post in a lighter vein, a source of information. It is penned only with good intentions. And not to make you feel about your current choices. On the bright side, you will get to know a few great alternatives, some of which you may not know existed.

FWIW, I was on the other side one time.

Like everybody else, I was once drowned in Google, and thought there was no way out. The exit was surprisingly much easier than I thought.

Exiting Google is necessary because the damage they have done to the industry and society is irreparable. They started something that has spread like cancer and awakened the evil in the rest of the companies. They are one of the reasons why we can’t put any data out there because it goes for sale with or without our knowledge.

Of course, it is not just Google but other rascals too - Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, WhatsApp, and the whole shebang. We have to ban the use of such services not just for our sake but for our kids and all future generations.

While I am targeting Google in this post as the sole evil, I generally mean any company/product that follows the same practices as Google. Unsurprisingly there are many such.

A common mistake I see people making while trying to escape the claws of these companies is that they do not realize the availability of better, and many times free, alternatives. Besides, the paid ones are not that expensive (YMMV).

This should be the easiest one to replace without even worrying about other Google products. There are a ton of great alternatives - Duck Duck Go (at the top of the list), Neeva, Qwant, Start Page, Ecosia, Brave Search (a worthy mention). Change your search engine today!


Chromium, the open-source browser project, has become the de facto browser engine for currently popular and any upcoming ones. Brave, Edge, Vivaldi, Opera, Iridium and many others, are built on top of Chromium. If you wish to trim it down to the absolute minimum, you can try Ungoogled Chromium.

The Google Chrome browser also is built on top of Chromium.

Never ever use Chrome. On any device!

If you are looking for a Chromium-based alternative, Firefox is a great option.

Or you can just use one of these. Or all of them like me 😀:

Firefox is solo against the rest of the browsers that use Chromimum. a worthy mention and has a following of its own. It is I left out Firefox because

Sinceit is on the verge of fading away (like Windows Phone). Future is either Chromium or Webkit, for the mainstream.

Left out Safari too because, meh, it is not interesting. It does not offer anything exclusive to privacy. Their default search engine is Google. Figure that. 🙄

Irrespective of the browser you use, switch off location. In fact, switch off location services in your OS settings. Change the permissions to on demand (Ask) for camera, microphone and everything else. Switch off Telemetry. If you like to contribute to the improvement of the app, participate in their community forums.

Passwords and User Info

I have seen people using browsers for saving passwords and other user information like addresses and credit cards. Generally speaking, it is not a bad practice. However, consider using a password manager - app dedicated for securing and managing passwords and other sensitive information.

1Password and Bitwarden are top of the line. In all likelihood, you will instantly decide to use one of the two. And your quest for a password manager will end right there. If not, first you should seriously review why either of the two did not meet your expectations. With enough reason, there are other alternatives.

While we are on the subject, if you did not know, you should run for life if you hear the word LastPass.


It is next to impossible not to use Youtube. There are alternatives like Vimeo and Dailymotion. But how many times have you watched a video on any of the alternatives. Even publishers and content creators do not publish their content on other platforms. When have you watched an official movie teaser on a platform other than YouTube. It is sad.

But do not lose hope. Try Piped. Or Invidious. Both of them are alternative front-ends to YouTube that strip ads and tracking. You can search for your favorite videos and copy/share links.

Now, managing subscriptions and playlists may not be smooth. Invidous supports subscribing to channels. I don’t remember on the top of my head if it supports subscribing to playlists. Same with Piped.

However, you can subscribe to your favorite Youtube channel feeds via any feed reader app or service - Readkit, Reeder, Feedly or anything else. On the other hand, if you want to collect and maintain a bookmark library of videos, try one of the best - Raindrop. Or use Brave to manage bookmarks and sync to other devices without the need to login (but just using a QR code). Explore this option with other browsers.


Most would recommend an E2E email alternative, which I am sure Gmail already is. We want better - ZKE. You might already know about Proton or Tutanota, two of the top existing ZKE email providers. Unless your entire circle of contacts is on Proton or Tutanota, it is not going to be much useful. You can try PGP/GPG but all not email providers / clients support it, which means you are also dependent on the receiver.

There is Hey. It is fancy. E2E. But I think it is unnecessarily expensive. Just a worthy mention though.

Skiff is new kid in the block. It is ZKE - Zero Knowledge Encryption; like Proton or Tutanota. What Proton took like a decade to offer, Skiff is already offering almost everything a little over a year of their inception. Their interface is ways better than others. They offer email, drive, calendar, pages (writing). ZKE. No Ads. No Tracking. Better pricing. Actively developed. Extremely responsive team.

Best bet is Fastmail which offers E2E encryption. But they have been around for like 20 years or something. They have earned high reputation for their privacy / security and seen in the same light as Proton / Tutanota. They have the simplest and clean interface. What you will love is the virtually unlimited aliases they allow to create. Plus support for masked emails (integration with 1Password and Bitwarden). One app gets you all - Mail, Calendar, Contacts, with the same consistent interface across all platforms.

All of the above provide one click import from Gmail or Outlook and other providers. Importing email, calendar, contacts etc.

Office Suite

Docs really depends on what kind of documents you write, and what kind of features you expect. If Markdown covers everything you write, you have a ton of great options. Free and Paid. You get E2E in many of them (YMMV).

I started writing the plain text portion of this document in UpNote, and later moved it to Craft before sharing it here.

Depending on the kind of documents you write, you will realize the overlap between note taking and document writing. You might use an app that supports file bases storage, which lets you own encrypting and syncing your files anywhere you like.

Do you need real time collaboration? If so, there are still options but limited. Take a look at Etherpad. If that does not work, share screen to collaborate.


Numbers is an option if you are in the Apple ecosystem although I am yet to see or hear anybody using it for real.

Depending on your use case, even the tables support in Notion should suffice.

Google Spreadsheets supports app scripting which a lot of people, businesses and companies use. If you have such scripts, Excel is an option. There are other options as well - Airtable. Or Smartsheet.


If you are a clicker 📸 and hoarder, Photos is the one that is going to give you the tough - choice and cost. Because just storage is not a problem. It is the secure part that brings in the cost. Proton has its Drive but you are not going to like their pricing.

There are a lot of options but depends on your storage capacity and budget needs. Sync, Icedrive, Tresorit, iCloud.

I am going to ignore Dropbox because it is generally not in the good books by privacy-conscious folks.

There are some who are not a fan of Microsoft but times have changed long since Steve Balmer’s departure. Actually, Google is in that position today that people cursed Microsoft to have been in the 90s. Microsoft is the lesser evil if not an angel.

Microsoft 365, equivalent to the Google workspace, is generous with apps across Mac, Windows and mobile. You get 6 accounts with 1 TB per person, and family setup. So, you can upload a ton of photos, of course, encrypt using Cryptomator (on any device) before uploading. No other provider of any kind provides all the apps and storage at that price.

A similar setup is available on Apple but not with that much storage but way less.


Signal is the one of the top alternatives for messengers of any platform. But it is not the ultimate. Session (kind of) is. If you happen to decide to switch to Session, don’t worry, you got a friend to talk to; possibly the only one 🤣

Everybody talks about Session and Briar but nobody seems to be on it. Perhaps we should categorize them as Classic (A book which people praise and don’t read.)

Some claim Matrix to be great. Personally, I found maintaining it a royal pain let alone the pain setting it up. There are implementations like Element that provide integrations if you like to try. Am not sure if it is E2E for all integrations. Tried Element too but couldn’t spare time at the time to troubleshoot the bridge / integrations issues for an uninterrupted connection to the target messaging platforms.

If you are an iPhone user, iMessage is better than Google Chat. With the recent E2E encryption support across all of Apple account, all your data including messages is encrypted in transit and at rest.

Telegram is an option on the table as long as they don’t go dirty. It is E2E but ZKE is supported on per device basis, which is not helpful. It has got the best usability and cross platform availability of the kind.

Do not use WhatsApp is an ideal to strive for. But we may not be able to attain it. Because every single person around you will drag you into the dirt (WhatsApp). Starting from schools, residential community, business contacts, and mainly family will force you into installing WhatsApp. It is a zombie game. First you are infected then you will infect others.

Good luck resisting and fighting the society. FWIW, here is some inspiration, I am free of evil and stayed clear of WhatsApp. Never installed. Never used. You will lose friends. But the ones you lose are proving that they are indeed not friends. But don’t worry, you will find new ones. At least one, on Session 🤣.


If you are in the Apple ecosystem, Apple Maps works great. There are alternatives. YMMV.

Even if you have to use/install Google Maps, use it without signing in. And only as a last resort.

And for the rest …

If you have come this far, rest of the Google apps do not matter at all. Or you are ready for an alternative. You would be surprised to see that there are many good apps that do not ask or track your information. But you will miss some that you are used to … for a little while.

Awareness and Discipline

Here is more fuel to the fire.

Do not install any app on a laptop or mobile that asks for permissions that is not necessary for the app to function. They are going to say they need it. But think twice before installing any such app. As an exercise, check WhatsApp’s permissions. For inspiration, check permissions of Mela, Bear and others. They do not collect any user data.Or at least do not link it to your identity.

Apple publishes / exposes the app privacy practices of any app. It is not 100% accurate but a great measure or guideline to decide if you really want to install the app.

Google Play Store’s similar feature is known to be buggy. Also, it depends on the app publisher. There is news that the app publishers have lied about the permissions. In short, do not use Android. Not on a phone. Not on a TV. Not on anything.

Alexa - send her away. If she is going to stay, do not let her talk to kids.

There is a difference between a company that is involved in killing competition or unfair pricing, and a company that spoils the uninformed by its technology and sells data. Google invented the category - selling user data.

Please note that there are other avenues and actors involved when it comes to security / privacy / data breaches online. Google cannot be entirely blamed for all that happens on the internet.

Morale of the Story

Do not get emotionally attached to a name. Brand names are not functionalities. Based on what we know, Apple does not sell user data. If ever they do, don’t hesistate to ditch them. Same goes to any app. Telegram seems to play nice today. It is a great app and has fantastic features. But if you know or suspect that there is foul play, be the first to switch although you should at least be on Signal already.

We have been led to believe that Facebook and Instagram are how we build and maintain relationships and our circles. If you are a public figure, you will be forced to use these platforms to your advantage. If not, there are ways to share it wisely.

Do not trust apps (except Maps) that require your location. Even weather apps do not need location access. You should be able to provide the location manually and even set notifications for weather alerts. contact info and other identification details. It is real concerning that simple apps for simple note taking and news require location, contact info and other identification details.

Alexa - send her way. At least, do not let her talk to your kids. If kids need company, send them to play with other kids in the neighborhood.

Not to scare you but anything you do online, anything you put online is not 100% safe. But the corollary is your data is yours own only. Just because your data contains events and information like everybody else’s does not mean they can be taken and shared. Not with your knowledge. Not without your consent.

I don’t want to Google to fall. I want them to come to their senses and do it right. On the other hand, Meta group of companies is a lost cause from the start. And there are others in that lot.

Best line of defence is any app that supports ZKE. If not, there is sufficient evidence that they respect user data and not engaged in selling and tracking. Like Fastmail.

Even with all the knowledge, discipline and expertise, we won’t attain our ideals. You will have to accept the fact you will almost always be choosing the lesser evil. It is not enough if you drive responsibly, other drivers on the road also have to. Likewise, it does not matter much if you use an email service with ZKE but converse exclusively with your contacts on Gmail or the like. But you have to start somewhere.

The important point to all of this is that there are no secrets to hide. Nothing to conspire. It is about ownership. If you order a coffee, will you let them take the money out of your pocket just because you owe them money for the coffee?

Root of all such problems is we were trained to taste all these apps for free in return for whatever these companies want to take from us. There is nothing like free in other industries the way it is in software. Will you be able to say rent a hotel room for a few days for free? I can’t even imagine what would they be taking from us in return!

Ironically, early softwares (Unix and what followed) were given to the world for free. Expecting nothing in return, which is why it is disheartening to see some of the brilliant minds, not just in the software industry, bastardizing the noble idea and act of releasing Unix for free.

So, that’s a start. Choose your app wisely.



2023-03-12: Initial 2023-07-11: Added Mullvad and LibreWolf to Browsers