EteSync – moving away from Google

By | February 23, 2021

I’ve blogged before about moving away from Gmail when talking about the EU-US Privacy Shield, and I successfully used RoundCube. A web mail client isn’t the best for lots of emails, so I have started trying Thunderbird. I also took the opportunity to move from Google Calendar to Lighting Calendar (part of Thunderbird). Thunderbird works fine, but Lighting (the Calendar) is a bit hit and miss. We’ll see how it goes. My main bug bear is that after you add an appointment, it takes a few seconds to update. Not the worst possible issue, but a bit annoying.

Mozilla Thunderbird - Wikipedia
Thunderbird logo

Anyway, moving to Thunderbird meant that my contacts and calendar wouldn’t synchronise to my phone, which is really useful. So, I wondered what options I had. Mark Hurst has some good suggestions and links at Good Reports, although most of these focus on common email/calendar/contacts solutions. After a bit of digging I found EteSync* which can synchronise your data between multiple devices using end to end encryption. It’s a charged for service (US$24 per year, £17.34 at the time of writing) with a free two week trial. After a bit of fiddling I managed to get it setup and it successfully synchronises my contacts and calendar to my phone and Thunderbird on my computer. It will also synchronise tasks, but I haven’t set that bit up yet.

EteSync logo

The phone side has an app which synchronises with their webserver. Thunderbird needs a couple of add-ons, and then a local webdav bridge running on the machine you want to use Thunderbird on. The setup instructions are fairly good, and I got up and running in a couple of hours.

So, why did I spend a good two hours of my time setting this up, when I could use Google? There has been quite a bit of coverage about the power and dominance of Google / Facebook, and whether or not they may be abusing their market position, and how they (Google in particular) use information from your email etc. to target adverts. While some of the comments can be a bit over the top, there are some things worth considering. Mark Hurst does do a good write up but I sometimes find his view a bit too cynical / depressing. He has also created lists of ‘good tech‘ alternatives which is worth a read.

I recently attended the DUG conference and there was a great presentation from Geoff Smith about Data Protection and Professional Ethics, titles Data Protection 2021 Forecast (video, PDF). He gave a great overview, and he was just presenting after Facebook announced WhatsApp would share metadata with Facebook outside Europe and UK. This created a great spike in registrations for Signal and Telegram (myself included!). Both are also listed in Good Reports, with Signal as the clear recommended app .

Geoff Smith, presenting on Data Protection and Ethics, at the DUG Conference, 12th Jan 2021.

I asked Geoff (at 46 min) about how we balance the need for privacy / awareness of these issues without getting too scared / concerned / paranoid? He said the biggest requirement was the need for discussion / public awareness about privacy and what it means. GDPR has great potential for this, but it hasn’t really resulted in the discussion that it could have.

While EteSync may not be for everyone, I am happier now that other people’s personal data that I hold is no longer within Google’s infrastructure, and that there is a (reasonably) viable alternative. Yes, it is a paid for option, but I think part of the payment is supporting EteSync and this support hopefully allow them to develop their service and continue to provide an alternative to Google.

Any comments, or if you want to share your experience, do let me know via the contact form, Twitter or LinkedIn.

*If you do signup with EteSync, please do use my referral code: r_YplK. I then get two free weeks for everyone who signs up for a paying account!