Want to know how much Google knows about you? A developer and privacy advocate has created a new app for those worried about how much of their information gets sent back to the search giant.
Although you can switch to using a more privacy-focused search engine like DuckDuckGo, Google’s reach extends much farther than that due to how other companies rely on Google Analytics and Google AdSense.
In order to better understand how often third-party sites and services send data to Google, the creator of PowerDNS Bert Hubert has launched a new free app called “Googerteller” according to a report from 9to5Google. The app itself uses a list of IP addresses, provided by the search giant, that are associated with all of the company’s various services.
Although the Googleteller app is free to download and available on GitHub, you’ll need to be using one of the best Linux distros to install it on your computer. Fortunately, other developers have managed to get it running on Mac and have also created a cross-platform version for Windows.
In a demo video posted on Twitter, Hubert showed off his new app which beeps every time data is sent back to Google. While typing in the address bar in Google Chrome, the app beeps repeatedly since the browser sends data back to the search giant to request for autocomplete suggestions.
Hubert’s demo video also shows that the app frequently beeps when visiting third-party and even government websites. For instance, while browsing the Dutch government’s careers website, there was a beep after almost every click since the site itself is tracked using Google Analytics.
If you think switching to another browser might help, you’re out of luck as Hubert also tried running Mozilla Firefox using his app with nearly identical results.
Removing Google from your life
Although you can stop using Google Search, Chrome, Drive and Google’s other apps, completely removing the company’s presence from your life can be quite difficult. For instance, our own Jordan Palmer tried to completely de-Google one of the best Android smartphones and found that “app availability is the weak point.”
Fortunately, the cybersecurity company Malwarebytes has provided some tips on how to remove Google from your life in a blog post highlighting a discussion with cybersecurity evangelist Carey Parker on an episode of its Lock and Code podcast.
To remove Google from his life, Parker began by using DuckDuckGo and Startpage as his new search engines. They both serve contextual ads based on your actual searches as opposed to using data stored on you. When it comes to a privacy-focused browser, Parker suggests using Mozilla Firefox or Brave.
Replacing Gmail and Google Calendar proved more difficult though but in the end, he turned to Fastmail which is a for-profit email provider that also has its own calendar solution. For more security conscious users, Parker recommends ProtonMail as it provides end-to-end encryption by default.
Google Drive and Google Docs were also difficult to find a suitable replacement for. For cloud storage, Parker recommends Sync.com for its client-side encryption while services like Swiss Transfer and Mega are a good choice for securely sending private files to others. While Skiff has an easy-to-use interface and is a suitable replacement for Google Docs, it doesn’t include replacements for Google’s other online tools like Google Spreadsheets or Slides.
While the Googleteller app doesn't do anything other than beep when a site sends information to Google, it's a helpful tool — and reminder — of just how much Google and its services are used without our knowledge.
For those concerned about their internet security, you should also check out DuckDuckGo Email Protection. The email-forwarding service takes out the trackers from the marketing emails you're constantly bombarded with, and now anyone can sign up.