Google is one of the most ubiquitous service providers of the 21st century. Google powers our phones, runs our email accounts, coordinates our chats, sells us cheap and powerful hardware, helps us find everything from new friends to new products, and in the future will be part of everything from our cars to our homes. But that doesn't sit right with everyone, especially in light of recent revelations about the company, and how it collects, mines, and collates data.
Can you remove your name from Google and its services? It's certainly possible, but it will involve a few sacrifices, and the company may be more deeply entwined in your life than you realize.
The Global Reach Of Google
Google has, and at a speed that has surprised even the site's owners themselves, integrated itself into modern life with stunning speed. From humble beginnings in the early 2000s, the site has grown to enormous proportions and offers a stunning number of services. Gmail alone has 425 million accounts as of 2012, a number that's only growing. Half of all new phones sold in America run Google's free operating system, Android.
Google Maps is one of the most popular websites in the world. YouTube is literally visited by a seventh of the world's population, every single month. No matter where you go or where you turn, Google is there. And you may not realize that although you don't pay Google in cash for their services, you do pay them with something else: data, and lots of it. That's why deleting your name from Google might be harder than you at first think.
Google And Privacy
Google, especially lately, has shown a troubling tendency to view its users privacy as more optional than some would like. The company found itself entangled in the revelations of a spying program conducted by the NSA called PRISM, and was forced to admit that it had provided information it had collected under government order in the past. It also stated publicly that, for example, Gmail users had little expectation of privacy; Google, or at least Google's software, is reading your mail. That alone should make you want to delete your name from Google.
Similarly, Google has a history of acting unilaterally and revealing your information whether you want it to or not. One of the site's attempts to introduce a social network, Google Buzz, forced everyone to join and put contact information and location out in public, putting some of its customers at risk. More recently, in an attempt to clean up the truly awful racism and hostility problem on YouTube, the site forced all YouTube accounts to join their social media network, Google +… and you have to use a real name on that particular network, demonstrating Google doesn't learn from its mistakes. And if that weren't enough, anyone on Google+ can now contact you through Gmail, which many tech reporters described as a "spammer's delight," and made many consider deleting themselves from Google's servers just to spare the annoyance.
More fundamentally, the leadership of Google seems to suffer from an inability to understand privacy, or to grasp that it does not get to define digital etiquette for the rest of us. This is, after all, a company that introduced Google Glass, which is essentially a camcorder that sits on your face and can record anything that happens or is said in front of you, uploading it instantly to YouTube.
And this is just the start; Google recently announced an alliance with car manufacturers to place Android screens in your car and serve as a GPS… and possibly deliver your location data to Google. If you've had enough of Google, here's what you need to do to get out.
How Far Do You Want To Go?
Keep in mind, even with no Google account, you'll still be providing data to Google, every time you search for something using its tool. So, if you want your name off Google completely, you will have to make a few adjustments, and some will be more painful than others. We'll take this from the simplest to the most complex.
Deactivate Your Google Accounts
This may be trickier than you first realize. Google, as we noted, is tightly integrated with our lives. But, to the site's credit, this first step is the simplest; just go to its account deletion page, and click a few buttons, and you're done. The site will delete your Google account and anything tied to it: Your Gmail, your Google Plus page, your Google Drive, and any other content you may have will be deleted. If you want to keep your Gmail for professional purposes, or another account for a professional reason, though, you can simply delete individual accounts as well.
Note that Google will not destroy your data at first; they'll retain your account in case you change your mind. The information will be deleted if you choose not to reactive your account.
Wipe Your Android
The next step will be deactivating your Android smartphone and stepping away from Google as a handset provider. Your Android devices might actually be the greatest violation of your privacy; Android and some applications can track everything from the phone calls you make to your location as you run errands.
And this will be a bit more tricky than you might think; unfortunately, Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone are little better in the privacy department. Your best option to step away from Google while retaining your smartphone is to use a "fork" of Android such as CyanogenMod, which incorporates privacy tools into the phone as a part of its function. There are step-by-step instructions available online for these operating systems.
Choose A Different Search Engine
The most extreme step you can take, to cut Google completely out of your life, is to stop using even its search engine and thus delete yourself from Google and its servers completely. It's still possible for Google to track your search results and interests based on your IP address and other data, so switch to using another search engine, such as a privacy-based one.
Removing your name from Google can be a tricky enterprise, but at ReputationDefender, we can help you track what information is on Google and other search engines, and help you step away from having your information everywhere. Take back your privacy online, with ReputationDefender.
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