Today I deleted all of my Google accounts, in advance of the privacy changes which come in to effect on 1st March. I've been with Gmail for eight years, and have been using Google search forever.
Deleting my accounts was a big move, precipitated in part by the policy changes, but motivated primarily by a growing sense of unease about the centralization of such a large amount of information about me.
Through my willing use of Google's services like Web History , Google chat, Gmail, Android SMS backups, Google Reader and Google Calendar, I have provided Google with a phenomenally vast amount of data over the years.
Gradually I have allowed Google services to penetrate almost every single aspect of my life -- from the minutely detailed statistics of my web servers' traffic to the complete logs of my viewing history for all of the videos I have watched on YouTube -- and I have suddenly become very uncomfortable with the ease with which everything I have said and done online could potentially be reconstructed, indexed and interpreted.
Although individual emails, search queries and photo uploads will be inconsequential, the collective sum of all of the data that Google holds about me could produce a fabulously detailed (but admittedly desperately tedious) minute-by-minute documentary of pretty much everything I have done online and offline in the past eight years, both in public and in private.
Whether this kind of reconstruction and profiling ever takes place or not is moot. What worries me is the fact that such an abundance of information exists in the first place, but it is worth remembering that profiling people and tailoring adverts to users' interests is precisely how Google make their money. This data is, in a very real sense, extremely valuable to them.
Aside from any processing that takes place within the bounds of the new privacy agreements, all of this sensitive and valuable information is vulnerable to the abuse of employees, dedicated hackers, and the demands of the state, and I don't like the idea of not being in control of it.
To try and reduce the likelihood and ease of this happening, I resolved to leave Google entirely. This decision required me to liberate as much of my data as possible -- download my emails, RSS subscriptions, photos, calendars etc -- and find good replacement services for all of the Google software that I have come to rely on so heavily.
Over the next few days I will write up how I went about migrating away from Google and taking control of my online privacy to aid anyone else who happens to be interested in pursuing a similar scorched-earth policy.