I've never trusted Google less than today. Yet Google has never known me better. Google knows my contacts and my calendar. Google knows where I am, it has access to all my photos, and it reads lots of the emails I receive. Google used to see my DNS requests, and I would not be suprised if Google has my finger prints.
That is way too much information, this should come to an end. But since I don't want to start over from scratch, I want to do leave Google taking one step at the time. I will start today.
Step 1: Lineage OS
I've got a Google Nexust 5X phone, and this way I more or less sold my soul to the company. Leaving Google will not be easy, and I should take one step at the time, because I don't want to break all my workflows at once. It will take time, and I probably will not be able to break up with Google completely. But I have to start somewhere, and as a first step, I will replace the OS on my phone. By LineageOs, a version of Android without Google. I've done this before, and it never caused too much trouble.
Installing a new ROM is always a little tricky. You get warnings all over the place about voiding your warranty, and about how irreversible the process is. Moreover, you install some OS and some bootloader you are downloading from the Internet; you just have to trust those will not do evil things. But since I assumed those images are at least as trustworthy as Google, I just flashed them.
The installation of LineageOS was not that hard. The wiki has step by step instructions, and the tools you need (adb and fastboot) are in Ubuntu's repositories. The hardest part was getting my phone in developer mode, which involved touching Android version number (or build number, I don't remember exactly) multiple times.
The app store
The instructions on the LineageOS wiki mentioned how I could optionally install the Google Apps. For me this was not optional. Today I use a whole lot of apps that are only available via the Google Play store. Probably there are some hacky ways to get those apps without having to log in with your Google accounts, but I considered that this would be a little too experimental for a first step. Moreover my calendar and my contacts are still stored on Google's servers. Moving those over to something else will be something I will do later on.
So after I booted into the new OS (the first boot after flashing always takes a long time, no worries there), I entered my Google credentials. And I activated finger print authentication. Which is so easy. I figured that if Google stores the fingerprints on its servers, it already has mine. I installed WhatsApp as well, which is a Facebook product. Facebook is also a company that has too much information on me, but at the moment I just have to use it because lots of my contacts do.
I installed Firefox as well; Mozilla is a company that I still trust. I changed Firefox's default search engine; my search queries now go to DuckDuckGo instead of to Google.
Some other proprietary apps I use, are KBC Mobile (for paying things I buy online), Payconiq (for paying beer), and Itsme (for authenticating on the government's applications). I was happy to see that those did not complain about the ‘unofficial’ operating system. Even Telenet Yelo Play, which refused to work on a device I flashed with CyanogenMod some years ago, is now running fine.
I also installed PocketCasts, which I use as podcatcher. But I think I will be able to replace this app by an alternative one from F-Droid. That will probably be one of my next steps. The lesser apps that I need to download from the Google Play Store, the better.
This concludes the frist step I took in my journey away from Google. I hope more steps are to follow soon. If so, I will blog about it. If not, getting rid of google wil be added to my list of ambitious projects that didn't go anhywhere.
Thank you, Paul
The evolution of Google from a cool company to an evil company, is not new for me. I've thought about being less dependent of Google multiple times, but I never took some actual action.
But now that Paul Thurrott was recently complaining about the trustworthyness of Google on Windows Weekly, I decided to actually start ‘degoogling’. Pauls blog posts Android without Google and Trusting Google are definitely worth reading.