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15 May 2014 : Treading More Lightly #
Footprints image by mailsparky Some time ago I started the process of disentangling myself from Google's clutches. This morning I finally finished the process by deleting the last vestiges of my account.

When Google first appeared it demonstrated a refreshingly open and efficient approach to the Internet, so I was making prolific use of their services until a couple of years ago. Since switching away from Google's search it's felt like their other services have become increasingly irrelevant to me.

In spite of this I discovered this morning the tentacles were still embedded pretty deep. I had documents scattered all over Google Drive, a languishing Google+ profile mostly used for access to hangouts, a Google Talk account (as a front for getting people to use Jabber), Google Analytics, Android accounts, an old Blogger blog; the list goes on.

And this was just the exposed information. I dread to think about the mountain of data being amassed in the background. The reality check really hit last year when Google's services went offline for four minutes in August. Subsequent reports suggested that Internet traffic dropped by 40% as a result. That's a dangerous over-reliance we have there. I was also impressed when one of my students, involved in the CodePool project (if you're reading this: you know who you are!) attempted to remove her Web footprint; I was surprised at how successful she was.

This isn't an attempt to remove my Web presence though and sadly I don't expect the data accumulation to stop. I'm sure Google will continue to know more about my movements than anyone else, whether company or individual. The biggest problem for me is that, even though everyone knows that Google knows, we don't really know the extent of knowledge Google can derive from our data. That's a real concern.

Google still offers outstanding services. I've found no replacement for the public-facing calendar sharing of Google Calendar. I'll inevitably continue to use Google Scholar, Google Maps and Google Images but without the login. Yet most of Google's services are replicated by smaller and less intrusive companies. I'm under no illusion about the motives of these smaller rivals: they still want my data and ad-revenue. But by virtue of their size they're less of a threat to my privacy.


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