The Pact

Ever think about how making a gmail account is like a warlock (you) making a binding pact with a powerful demon (google)?

Sure their minds are inscrutable and they possess far more power than you could ever hope to weild on your own. But the gosh darn it’s just so useful. Barely anyone is incinerated or driven mad so long as they follow the covenants.

@brookmiles, 2019-12-18

The final straw for me was apparently Google buying Fitbit. I’ve relied on Google services for years, knowing that they snoop at it all, analyse, cross-reference and aggregate it… but they don’t need my personal health and medical data too.

Not to mention the Fitbit app constantly trying to upsell me premium services. I had previously retired my Aria scale because it was a terrible product, and now I just use a cheap department store scale and write down the numbers myself which actually saves me time.

I switched to using the step counter in my iPhone – which is a whole other story – but at least, to the best of my knowledge, the health data is encrypted and only accessible to me and not Apple.

Progress So Far

setting up a google sheet of services i need to stop relying on google for

@brookmiles, 2021-10-27

It has been about 6 months since I started working on decoupling from Google and I’m maybe 50% of the way there, give or take. It’s not exactly urgent, so I poke at things off and on.

Service Usage Status Replacement Alternatives
Fitbit None Replaced Apple Health
Google Analytics None Replaced umami (self-hosted)
Sign in w Google None Replaced login/password
g-suite None Replaced mxroute
Chrome Rarely WIP Edge, Firefox/Focus
Google Search Rarely WIP duckduckgo
gmail (primary) Often WIP Fastmail Protonmail
Google Photos Often WIP NAS, pCloud LibrePhoto
Google Docs Often Dependant ONLYOFFICE
Google Drive Huh? What? pCloud Nextcloud
Google Maps Often Dependant Burner Account OSM, Apple Maps
Google Translate Often Dependant ?
YouTube Often Dependant Burner Account N/A

Google Analytics

The second thing to go was Google Analytics. I’m not particularly dependant on it for anything, so I just removed it from my websites. Not only does this reduce my dependence on Google services, I don’t want to be responsible for helping to feed other users data into The Great Machine.

Later I moved to using a self-hosted umami server so that I can monitor traffic levels without impacting user privacy or contributing to online tracking.

Sign in with Google

I definitely don’t want Google, Twitter, or (perish the thought) Facebook, to be the central authority on whether I can sign into unrelated services. There is also the possibility that a single ill-advised comment you post, or a targeted harassment campaign, results in your account being suspended with no recourse. Now you’ve also lost access to all of the linked services as well.

I’ve generally been wary of using big tech services to sign into other services and I think it should be avoided whenever possible. I only had a handful of services which were linked to my Google account, so it didn’t take long to unlink them and switch to login and password.


Google helpfully forced my hand here, by discontinuing their grandfathered free g-suite offering and forcing people to switch to a paid plan. Since I only used g-suite for custom domain email services, I migrated a handful of domains to a lifetime mxroute account.

This past week, Google backtracked and announced they would continue to offer a free service for personal use. I’m not about to move back, and I’m glad I had the kickstart to find and switch to an alternative.

imapsync was very helpful during this process.


I had been using Edge for some time mainly just to see how it compared, and I’ve mostly moved over at this point. Using Edge instead of Chrome is basically just replacing one demon pact with another, but at the very least the power each demon holds over me is somewhat diminished.

I know that google knows my birthdate, but it’s still a bit creepy to be wished a happy birthday by your search engine.

@brookmiles, 2014-05-27

Easy enough to switch here, and I am happy with duckduckgo for the most part.

Once in a while if I’m having trouble finding something I really need then I’ll switch over to Google (or Bing, shudder) to make sure I’m not missing something obvious, usually in a Private browsing window without logging in.


My primary email address has been gmail for a good 15 years, but I checked out Fastmail after a recommendation and it seems promising enough that I’m in the process of switching the various dozens of accounts I have registered to my main gmail over to it.

One insidious point of services like gmail and Google Photos is that the longer you use them the more dependant you can become on them as the data that they store accumulates, migrating becomes harder, and the risk of losing all of that data looms larger.

15 years of gmail archiving has accumulated ~21k emails totalling only about 4GB in size, which isn’t all that much these days. I will likely sync all of these over to an account somewhere created specifically for holding this archive so as not to dump a huge load of old garbage into my fresh new main account.

I’ve resumed deleting anything that can be deleted once it has been read, which is the vast majority of my email in the form of automated notifications, confirmations, etc., and purposefully archiving only things that I might realistically need again in the future.

Google Photos

One of the more annoying services to move away from, I have a little over 50GB of photos on the service, enough that I actually pay for additional Google storage space. But here again, I’d rather not feed The Great Machine with all of my images, geo-locational data, and facial recognition training. Since I’m already paying, I might as well pay to host these files on another service, or to self host.

I’ve never even really liked Google Photos, I’ve just gotten used to it. I still mostly just want things to be in folders by the date that I took them, or the occasionally created album, not all smashed together in one giant pile that I have to search to find anything.

It’s likely I will continue to use Google Photos to a limited extent passively as things are shared with me.

Google Docs

I use Docs pretty often, I have design documents, financial spreadsheets, diaries, writing, tracking sheets, etc… all stored in Docs.

Some of these things could easily become local files synced to something like Nextcloud. For those few that I actually do want to share with others, ONLYOFFICE looks promising, but I haven’t tried it out yet.

As with Photos, I will likely continue to use Docs passively if other people share things with me.

Google Drive

I don’t actually use Drive intentionally except as the place where my Google Docs are online, and recently Google also removed the Google Photos uploader and replaced it with some feature in Google Drive which I now had to install.

Where does Drive end and Docs and Photos begin? I don’t really know.

Basically if I move my Docs and Photos away, then I’ll have no more use for Drive and that will take care of itself.

Google Maps

I rely frequently on Google Maps for transit and walking directions around my home and in Tokyo. I haven’t heavily investigated alternatives, although it appears that many of them are primarily focused on driving directions, which are not useful for me.

Some combination of Apple Maps, OpenStreetMaps, and possibly specialized Japanese transit apps are likely to be sufficient here.

Google Translate

I almost forgot to include Translate, even though I use it nearly every day. As an immigrant living in a country where I don’t speak the language fluently, Translate has been incredibly helpful.

I might go so far as to say that this is the killer app which turns my smartphone from a tech convenience and attention stealer into a tool that meaningfully improves my life in a significant way.

I haven’t investigated alternatives here at all yet.


YouTube is an outlier in that the content I use it for is only available on YouTube, pretty much by definition. I’m not using it to post my own content, so moving to another platform isn’t meaningful. If I want to see YouTube videos, generally that’s the only place I can see them, there is no alternative.

This seems to mostly come down to a question of mitigation. I can use YouTube anonymously to some degree, and/or use a burner account to help isolate my YouTube activity from other Google account activity, at the expense of some inconvenience.