Giving Up Google

Due in large part to the design disaster that is the Pixel (yes, I'm superficial), I recently switched from many years in the Android ecosystem to Apple. I traded in my Nexus 5X for the iPhone SE - my first iPhone, ever. I had Mac computers throughout the years, but swore never again on those after one too many pricey repairs. (What do you mean I can't replace my own power supply!?)

I understand the iOS vs Android debate may very well be an illusion of choice. They are the two dominant operating systems. While Android offers a wider variety of hardware choices (and some custom OS flavors like Oxygen), there's also all the bloatware. But overall, despite some differences, in terms of smartphone shopping, we are in the cellular version of the Giant Douche vs Turd Sandwich.

That is to say, I know my defection from Android is largely meaningless. I'm not making a statement or impact. Both companies use Foxconn for manufacturing (although there is speculation Apple might move towards more domestic production). Issues of pollution are rampant. There's that tax evasion thing. And I often fear the rapid rate of change and wanton embrace of new tech. But this was less about all of those issues, and more about privacy.

I started to become enamored with Apple again when Tim Cook fought the FBI. The case illuminated major differences between Apple and other tech giants. They offer encryption of all your data by default. On Safari, Apple has DuckDuckGo, a longtime privacy-friendly search engine, as an available option.

After the election, downloads of services like Proton Mail, Firefox Focus, Signal and others are at an all-time-high. And it's a good thing this is garnering such media attention, because earlier this year, Proton Mail disappeared from Google search results for months. Google controls 90% of the market share for mobile searches, with 9 in 10 smartphone users defaulting to the behemoth. And while allowing the biggest app of 2016 full access to your entire Google suite happens accidentally, who's to say it can't also happen by intention?

Perhaps, though, it was rewriting their corporate motto that scared me more than anything else.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin advocated for "Don't Be Evil" during their IPO, valuing objectivity and an absence of bias. But even with putting aside the political implications of search engine bias and focusing on a business example, it's clear that we are beholden to Google's favorability because of their market share. Yelp! and TripAdvisor pointed out how results are skewed, maybe even to the point of an antitrust violation.

Is it even possible, then, to ever give up Google? I now pay monetarily (nominally - 99 cents per month) for my iCloud storage instead of with my personal information for the "free" Google Drive. I don't need Google to search for Thanksgiving recipes on my iPhone, but I need to master Analytics, AdWords and SEO for work. Even more to the point, understanding the demographic information Google collects and sells is essential to my job. So should we just trust in The Google, that when they say they'll root out fake news, or adjust accordingly, they will? That they really will "do the right thing," as Alphabet mandates? But with secret algorithms and the perpetual expansion of pay-to-play over organic SERP rankings, how can a girl ever get ahead in digital marketing?