It’s easy to make your Android phone Google-Free. The same method works for Facebook, and it doesn’t involve any hacking and won’t break your phone–you just disable a few apps which can be re-enabled if you don’t like it.
Why would I do that?
Even if you use an Ad-Blocker, Google (and Facebook) are still watching everything you do and say. They share that information with anyone who buys their ads, whether the advertiser’s goal is to increase greed, materialism, dehumanization, and world pollution by making you into a targetable consumer, or just to subvert American democracy. I just find it spiritually disrespectful and I don’t want it in my life (even if eliminating it makes some things very slightly less convenient).
What would I lose?
You would lose most of the Google infrastructure, so if you stay logged in to Google all day, and are reliant on their tools and services (for example, Google Music, Code, or Games), then this is not for you.
There are always alternatives, if you want to go Google-Free.
You would lose Google Play Store, but there are safe alternatives. Samsung has an App Store for Samsung phone owners and I have found apkmirror.com to host safe, reliable, and up to date versions of many of the most popular apps for all Android phones. If you can’t do without a GPS navigator, both Here WeGo and ATT Navigator are alternatives to Google Maps (and you could keep Google Maps if you preferred because it does not require you to log in to Google). I found it best to get whatever alternative apps I might need before I disabled Google Play store.
Some programs don’t really need Google Play Services even though they say they do. For instance, the app I used to make the video (AZ Screen Recorder) said it “wouldn’t run correctly” without Google Play Services, but it did. The only loss is that it couldn’t location stamp the video. This is because Google’s Location History is the worst offender in terms of spying, tracking, and reporting. I prefer to do without the location stamp or to support apps that use Android’s native location services directly rather than those apps which enable Google.
These 2 Youtube videos don’t take the same approach I did, but they do discuss many alternative apps to the Google apps. 1) How to Use Android without Google Play Services, 2) Alternatives to Google Services (Gmail, Youtube, etc).
How to go Google-Free (Watch the Video for pictures)
- Go to Settings, then Applications.
- In Applications, tap the hamburger menu and choose Show System Apps.
- Click each of the programs with Google in their titles and then click the Disable button. Disable all the Google apps for a totally Google-Free phone. Definitely disable Google, Google Play Services, and Google Account Manager to stop the stalking.
While you’re at it, disable Facebook, Facebook App Installer, and Facebook App Manager
It is convenient to use Facebook on your phone. The downside is that you will stay logged in to Facebook. If you stay logged in to Facebook, every site you visit will report on your location and activities. It is much more private and secure to use Facebook on a desktop where you have more privacy protections available–you may be interested in the LongTimeThinking article on Online Privacy.
Kill the Google and Facebook accounts too
- Tap Settings, then Cloud and Accounts, then Accounts
- Tap the Google account, then tap the hamburger menu and choose Remove Account.
- Do the same for Facebook.
Use the Duck Duck Go search engine in your browser
Duck Duck Go just doesn’t track you, period. Go to your browser settings for Search and choose Duck Duck Go. If it is not there, direct your browser to the Duck Duck Go site and get the search engine plugin.
Restart Your Phone
I wrote these instructions using Android 7 on a Samsung S7 Edge, but they are simple enough to be useful on any recent version of Android. To restart the stalking, just enable the apps you disabled. The accounts you removed will be recreated if you log into Google or Facebook.
[Add] I did test with Android 8, but that was an upgrade to Android 7, and it worked as I said. However, I then reset the phone, and I get the same you did–unable to disable Google Play Services. After a reset some other things are different too. Evidently an upgrade to Android 8 (that hasn’t been reset) is different than a native copy of Android 8 (which is what it looks like after a reset). Perhaps google noticed that people were disabling Play Services.