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Tech That Cares

Our digital lives need not start and end with Google's fast-spreading tentacles. Meet Google alternatives which protect user privacy
twitter-logo Nidhi Singal   New Delhi     Print Edition: August 11, 2019
Tech That Cares
Illustration by Ajay Thakuri

Do we still trust tech giants after the massive privacy violation on Facebook? Virtual assistants are already under fire as the likes of Alexa have been eavesdropping on us all the while. And the latest threat seems to come from Google. Its parent company Alphabet is reportedly planning to develop a Toronto neighbourhood as an epitome of a data-driven smart city and experts are voicing their concerns about how personal data can be used to create mayhem. This is especially worrisome as Google has masterminded the project. From search, e-mail, maps and entertainment to hardware and software and connected technology, this ubiquitous tech behemoth has rapidly become the backbone of our digital existence. Now that Google is planning to track your every move (via smart city technology), it can become a bigger threat than the average data brokers. Of course, the Mountain View company says it is actively mending its ways by allowing users to delete their location history and change privacy settings. But in case you are still worried about privacy breaches, here is a list of alternative services where user privacy is said to be sacrosanct.

Where Privacy Matters

Search: DuckDuckGo

While most companies store search preferences without user consent, DuckDuckGo promises never to do so; neither does it keep track of your search history. This US-headquartered Google rival guarantees a safe search environment and promises to fetch unbiased search results. You can make DuckDuckGo your default search engine on browsers such as Safari and Opera. Plus, it has a dedicated browser for iOS and Android devices. You may not get as wide and extensive search results as available on Google, but it does an impressive job.

Browser: Opera VPN

Norway-based Opera has taken user privacy to the next level. This one is available for desktop and mobiles, and provides free, unlimited VPN (virtual private networking) service, unlike most companies. A quick toggle on the top of the browser makes it easy to turn on/off the VPN. This one replaces the IP address of your device with a virtual one, making it more difficult for websites to track a browser's location and identify. It even tries to block most of the tracking cookies.

Cloud Storage: Degoo

We have embraced cloud storage as the new technology eliminates the hassle of storing data on physical drives or the fear of losing data in case of hardware failure. If you are on the Google network, the chances are you have access to 15 GB of free storage space on Google Drive. But if you want to move away from Google, try Degoo, a Sweden-based cloud service that promises to keep your files safe. Its 'top secret' feature is a secure, bank-like vault where files are encrypted with a passphrase known only to the user. These files are encoded in chunks and kept at data centres in different countries, and no single data centre has enough data to access the entire file. Degoo offers 100 GB of cloud space for free, but a user must access her account at least once in 90 days to keep the service activated. For more storage, you can try Pro and Ultimate plans starting at a monthly rate of $2.99 and $9.99, respectively.

E-mail: Tutanota

If Google's tracking of Gmail messages to monitor shopping, trips and bills freak you out, consider switching to the Tutanota e-mail client. Tutanota is one of the most secure e-mail services with end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication that makes sure that no one can decrypt or access your data. Unlike most e-mail services that rely on Google, Tutanota is Google free. This one does not log IP addresses and strip the same from all e-mail messages. The only downside of this Germany-based e-mail service is storage - just 1 GB for a free account. But you can get 10 GB for Euro 2.40 a month. Tutanota can be accessed from any web browser, but it also has iOS and Android apps for mobile usage.

Maps: MapmyIndia Move

When it comes to maps and videos, it is not so much about privacy but about finding service providers who can offer decent alternatives to Google solutions. The iconic Google Maps is used by billion-plus people for basic directions or exploring new places. Mapping India (or any other country for that matter) the way Google does it is no doubt challenging, but MapmyIndia Move is worth considering. This app can be used for navigation, live traffic updates and sharing live locations. It is quick to identify the current location and good at providing house addresses. Besides, it will fetch relevant information when you are looking at nearby places for petrol pumps, coffee shops, ATMs or parking lots. Apple users can also use Apple Maps in India for directions and traffic updates.

Video: Dailymotion

For most of us, Google-owned YouTube is synonymous with video streaming and nothing can match its humongous database. Consider Dailymotion, though, if you are ready to leave YouTube behind. Currently owned by Vivendi and headquartered in Paris, Dailymotion enables users to browse videos by tags, channels or user-created groups and connects 250 million-plus entertainment seekers across the globe. The neat interface makes it easy to explore content. You can also pull up some India-specific videos.

@nidhisingal

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