Archive 2015-08-04 11-46-59 (1)

The rise of Google and how you should take privacy into your own hands again

(Guest blog Post by ZEEF curator Jeroen Rijken)

Everybody at some point uses Google’s services, and why not? They are free, reliable and easy to set up. Email? Google’s got it. Storage? Three clicks, done. Every convenience you want, served on a silver platter. So why is it that all these services are free?

Well, the thing is, these services aren’t really free. In the case of Google you pay with something even more valuable than money: personal data. That’s right, all your email, documents, photo’s and search data are stored on Google’s servers. But how does having all this personal information about you help Google earn money? Personalized advertising. Your personal information is used to offer you advertisements tailored to your personality. This is an invasion of your privacy.

I’ve created a Google Alternatives ZEEF page to show you alternatives to Google services that are first of all not run by Google and secondly, not in the hands of another internet conglomerate. For example, you could just switch from Google Drive to Dropbox, but what do you actually gain by doing so? Now all your data is in the hands of Dropbox and considering the recent revelations by Edward Snowden this is not an improvement. It is better to look at why you need to move away from service like Google. Reasons may include better functionality and higher flexibility. However I think we can all agree that there is another reason. A better reason. A reason which is thought not to be of this century…



The solution to these problems is to either store your data with companies in a way that they cannot access your data without your knowledge or keep it to yourself. This is where free and open source solutions play a huge part, just like encryption and location. If you use only free and open source solutions you can inspect the source code and verify that it is not doing anything malicious. Encrypting your data makes sure only you can read it and if your service provider is located somewhere the US has no authority (like Switzerland), you can be pretty sure your data is safe.

Some services from Google are easier to move away from than others. From Chrome to Firefox, Code to GitHub, Blogger to WordPress. But how about the more prominent services that people use, like Google Search, Gmail, Google Drive and the mother of them all: Android?

This is probably the easiest of them all. Even though it sounds impossible, there are actually really good search engines out there that take your privacy seriously. DuckDuckGo is one of the best known search engines that cares about privacy. It has gotten a significant increase in search request after the Snowden revelations and not without a reason; the results are good and the bangs (!) help you get your information quicker. Others like ixquick and Disconnect Search are also great upcoming alternatives.
duck duck go

Who hasn’t got Gmail? It is easy to set up, free and widely available. Free email providers that respect your privacy are scarce, if they exist at all (of course, how are they going to make money?). To be sure only you can read your email you should use an email provider which has implemented proper security techniques and takes a firm stand against government surveillance.

The most important things to look for in an email provider are thus whether your data is stored encrypted and in what country the servers are located. If you reside in the US the best solution is a provider that is either located in the US and doesn’t have servers outside the US, or in a country that takes a bold stand against US government surveillance (like Switzerland). If you reside in any other country, avoid companies that have servers in the US. Unless you are 100% sure your data is both stored and sent encrypted it isn’t advisable to use the service, regardless of your and their location. Fastmail is a good option if you reside in the US, Kolab Now works well if you do not.


Setting up your own private cloud is a viable solution. Services like ownCloud can host your storage, contacts, calendar, news feeds and much more. The costs for the actual server don’t have to be that high and maintenance can be made easy if you decide to use a cloud hosting provider like DigitalOcean. For those that prefer not to host your own server, SpiderOak and Wuala are probably the most well-known cloud storage providers. You can find a lot more on my Google-Alternatives page.

This seems difficult. Google created Android. How are you going to use a Google service without using a Google service? Well, the platform may have been created by Google, but most of the source code is actually freely available! This is why derivatives like CyanogenMod, OmniROM and Replicant can exist. You can use these operating systems without using Google service like Gmail, Contacts and Calendar, however it is going to be a challenge unless you host these yourself. If you install a third-party market like the AppBrain market you won’t even need the Google services (remember apps like Youtube do require these).

Preach it, use it
Here is the part where it all comes together, or not…

As stated earlier in this article, moving away from Google is difficult. I am still struggling myself. I use DuckDuckGo for all my searches, except for images. Gmail will be replaced once I have a job so I can afford an email service like Kolab Now or Fastmail. Hosting my own ownCloud server will have to wait as well, seeing how I can’t afford a new server at the moment.

I use Cyanogenmod on my Galaxy SII and use F-Droid as much as possible. Once I have my ownCloud server setup, I can start using the AppBrain market and live Google free. For now I still have my contacts and calendar in the Google cloud.

Further reading
After such a long blog post I can’t leave you without some links now, can I? I have collected additional resources to read which you can find on my Google Alternatives ZEEF page. My page is partially based on the links in the articles by senk9. You should also check out the blog posts by Bryan Lunduke. He is currently transitioning away from Google service and because of his unique position he can offer you some help with the transition too.

google alts

About Jeroen Rijken 2015-08-04 12-35-28
Passionate about UNIX-like Operating Systems. Soon to be GNU/Linux system administrator with an interest in security and privacy. Still trying to break free from the grips of Google.

chrome extension 5

Chrome extension

We are proud to announce our ZEEF Chrome extension is now live. This feature makes it easier than ever to add beneficial links from Google Chrome directly to your ZEEF page. 

The ZEEF Chrome extension aids easy content curation, allowing curators to add links just by right clicking on their chosen link and then adding it to their subject on to their block within their ZEEF page.

chrome extension official












Setup is simple:

  1. Download the  ZEEF Chrome extension from the Google Chrome web store.
  2. Once added to your browser just log into your ZEEF account (or sign up) to allow the extension to link with your ZEEF pages.

This extension is perfect for the social bookmarker who wants to quickly add beneficial links to their page whilst browsing the web.  Read more about the ZEEF Chrome extension and discover many other useful features our platform offers.




Olivier iTW

Interview with top curator Olivier Ozinga

Olivier Ozinga is a 18 year old entrepreneur whose company (ORO Projects) aims to help develop websites from any market. Olivier is also one of our top curators who has curated content for over 20 ZEEF pages including Google, Olympic Games and Volvo Ocean Race. Maud Sztern recently contacted Olivier to ask him few questions about his experience with ZEEF.

How did you find out about

I am friends with one of the founders who told me about ZEEF. I was curious to see what it was all about and now I use it very often to share my personal passions and knowledge.

What was your initial reaction to ZEEF?

I was a bit skeptical at first. Then I learned how the platform worked and I really liked it. However I still believe there are not enough pages on ZEEF, that is why I have asked all my friends to create their own ZEEF pages. The more pages there are, the more people will use ZEEF as a beneficial link directory. More exposure to the site may make them willing to create pages about their passion too. It’s a virtuous circle.

What are the benefits of using for you?

Using ZEEF has a lot of benefits. The coolest part for me is that you can share your knowledge. Everybody loves talking about something they are really knowledgeable on and a platform like ZEEF is the ideal way to express this online. The second thing is that you have access to the knowledge of other people.This allows me to discover valuable information about topics I’m not an expert in. It is a sharing community, a win-win situation where everybody has something to give and to receive.

How was the process of creating a ZEEF page?

Creating a ZEEF page is easy and fun and the steps to follow are clear. Also with the suggested links option and the curate tool you might even learn something new about a subject you are passionate about.

What improvements would you like to see?

It would be interesting to have the possibility to set ZEEF as default search engine in your browser. It will give you the possibility to use ZEEF for some of your researches instead of Google.

Was it clear what all the products of ZEEF were?

I have to admit that I only focus on one of your products. I haven’t explored all you have to offer yet.

Is it clear that you are rewarded for your curation efforts?

It is crystal clear that people get rewarded by affiliate links. But beside that, the enthusiastic response of the ZEEF team is one of the biggest rewards a curator can get (For example, all the pages you create are shared on their social media and they even invite people to their office for a chat and a coffee which is great). I’m glad to see that the company keeps on growing