Concern for the decay of the principle of privacy lead me to close my Google account (ie all services) yesterday, and I was very shaky afterwards. Google services have become so omnipresent that there is no control anymore over the (selective) delivery of information about oneself. I find this development disturbing.

After some tea and biscuits I tackled my smartphone - I "reinstalled" it. The phones come with a telco version (eg Vodafone) of Android including all the Google apps. To get a clean and new installation of Android you first need to "root" the phone, ie get super user access to it. Then you need to flash it with an Android operating system image - I chose CyanogenMod. This whole process was of course terribly frustrating. I didn't find a single piece of documentation that was complete and correct and up-to-date. I had to pick and choose snippets of useful text, and redo steps. I even ended up having the bug of a continuous reboot loop. But what a smile and bounce in my feet I got when finally my "free" smartphone was live!

The phone is pretty minimalist at this point and can be used without a problem. However the first thing most modders do is install the gapps package (with proprietory "google.apps" - which include the market/play, gmail, maps and other G apps). One can't install the the gapps package at a later date, it must be done first thing after flashing the phone. I tried the phone with the gapps package and without it (one can reinstall or flash the phone as often as you like). I am now without it.

To shake off the Google stalker there are more things to be done. One needs to start using alternative search engines. I'm getting quite accustomed to using DuckDuckGo and IxQuick (I was sad to hear of the end of Scroogle).

And then there is Google Analytics - which nearly all websites use. Even if I am not (constantly) logged into Google the company can still follow my movements on the Internet indirectly through GA. I installed Ghostery in my browser and selected the option to block the Google Analytics scripts on all websites.

Finally I would like to mention the Tor project, which is another way to promote anonymity on the net. A Tor enable browser can be used when you need a Google service for which there is no (good) alternative (yet). For example image search or translate.google.com. Take note: people campaigning for privacy are branded as pirates sometimes. This is a sure sign of the importance of the issue. An ad hominem or ad feminam attack (to the person) is an attempt to negate the validity of a claim or campaign by redirecting people's attention to an alternative and often negative and personal characteristic.

I'm not naive, and am sure that Google has a lot more ways of figuring out all that I'm up to. But for now I'm very happy to be (almost) free of this data collector following me around.