Three years ago, a journalist for Gizmodo named Kashmir Hill wanted to understand what life was like without “Big Tech.”

Far from a “digital detox” retreat—the kind of which were popular with exceedingly plugged-in, very online types of mid-20s and early-30s folks—Hill’s experiment with technology abstinence was colored by restrictions. Swearing off Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon meant no iPhone, no Android phone, no MacBook, no PC running Windows, and no Chromebooks, and that’s just hardware. Hill was also unable to visit Facebook or use its owned subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp, and similarly, she could not use Microsoft’s many tools, including the entire Microsoft Office suite, but also LinkedIn, Skype, and Teams (but that was far less a need in pre-pandemic times). Also off the table were any sites hosted by Amazon Web Services, which Hill managed to avoid with the help of a VPN that a technologist programmed for her.

After weeks without Big Tech, Hill said plainly: “It was hell.”

The takeaways from Hill’s reporting are many, but one obvious lesson is that big tech is so entrenched in our lives that, without it, we’d be unable to function in quite the same way. And that’s a bit of a bummer for anyone who wants to lessen their reliance on these companies because of their corporate practices or their notoriously flippant attitudes about data privacy.

In 2022, then, one cybersecurity evangelist saw an opportunity: Don’t remove every Big Tech company all at once, but just one, and do it in phases where you can introduced privacy-preserving alternatives along the way. No more Google Chrome? No problem, just use Brave, he said. No more Gmail? That’s also fine, he said, because you can use FastMail, or ProtonMail.

In today’s episode of Lock and Code, with host David Ruiz, we speak to Carey Parker, host of the podcast Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons, about how he has progressively removed Google and Google services from his life, opting into new providers for crucial services like email, calendaring, document-writing, spreadsheets, and more.

“The first step in any of these things is understanding the problem. And, so, what you really need to do, first of all, is understand what Google has on you.”

Carey Parker, cybersecurity evangelist and host of Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons

Tune in to hear all this and more on this week’s Lock and Code podcast by Malwarebytes Labs. You can also learn more about de-Googling your own life from Carey Parker’s website and podcast, which is having a giveaway for its fifth anniversary in which 10 lucky winners will get a one-year, consumer premium license for Malwarebytes (hey we know those people!).

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