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De-Google your life: it’s worth the hassle if you value your privacy

Data privacy may seem like a distant and abstract concept but what is more personal than the information you are sharing with Google?

Imagine you get a letter in the post offering you free water. Instead of paying Irish Water for your supply, another company promises you a generous quantity of free water.

The catch? Instead of water meters, the company wants to install meters measuring the comings and goings to your home. They will also record who you know, who you communicate with and how often.

They will store information on what you watch on television, what websites you visit on your computer, where you go on holiday, what you buy and where.

The same company allows you free water outside your home, but only after you allow them meter your smartphone to record where you go, who you call or text, what websites you visit, even where you – and your phone – spend the night. It’s a great service and, sure, you have nothing to hide, have you? Free water is free water, after all.

In a world where digital services are now regarded as almost as crucial as water, Google has taken the world by storm because of its great services and compelling business proposition.

Google’s search engine, email and other products are fast, intuitive and reliable – but they’re not free.

Instead of cash, people pay Google in kind: with their identity, their behaviour, their habits and their preferences. Google collates and analyses this user data on a global scale, sells it to advertisers and, according to Edward Snowden, more than occasionally gifts it to US and other intelligence services.

Viewed from a distance, Google is operating the largest instalment plan in human history.

The longer the plan runs, the more valuable Google’s customer data collections become.

You may already be more valuable to Google now than the cost to them of offering you their services.

Given Google’s billions of satisfied customers, is it quixotic to tilt against these windmills of the digital age by de-Googling your life?

Anyone who thinks so is likely to change their mind when they start. Very quickly, Google begins to resemble the Eagles’ Hotel California, where you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Or at least that’s what the Californian corporation would have you believe.

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