Tweaking Your Personal Freedom & Privacy in Google Chrome

I’m a Google and Chrome fan because of their tools and the simplicity and performance they adhere to—apart from search this is exactly what the company and it’s engineers have excelled at and has for many years. However untangling the browsers privacy issues to give you more personal freedom is a different art all together.

chrome-tab1

Google’s browser Chrome is lightweight, responsive and performs fantastically even when browsing many tabs at once. We can thank  the Chromium Open Source project for giving users more stable, faster and safer web experiences.

Having said that, with the increasing amount of hackers compromising individuals and other companies information, it’s important to think of how to protect companies & individuals from snooping on your personal privacy. It’s quite obvious that Google’s interface to their users is the web and web browsers, while Apple’s is the screen. That is why you as an end user using Google (or any other product for that matter) should understand how their privacy policy and terms work, and in this case especially for the browser. Have you ever looked? You should go ahead and read through the notice if you haven’t.


privacy-chrome

One should realize that maybe Google Chrome’s policy is not good at all when you realize:

  • If you use Google Chrome, Google will know every URL you type into the location bar.
  • Google will know (almost) every partial URL you type into the location bar.
  • Moreover, they will know every word or phrase you type into the location bar, even if you type it and then delete it before pressing enter.
  • They will also know every word or phrase you type into the location bar, even if you type it and then delete it before pressing enter.
  • All this information can be linked with your main Google account, because Google sends your cookie along with every automatic search it performs from the location bar.

If you are at all doubtful that they actually do this then try downloading fiddlr (A web debugging proxy), and shows that for nearly every character you type, Chrome sends a request back to Google.

At least they give you options to disable their data collection services, the only problem is most of your average users don’t understand what’s really going on “under the hood.” It’s wise to get an understanding about how they collect data and then try to tweak it for better privacy results. Anonymity matters to me for these simple reasons, and I think they should matter to you as well:

  • Prevent people from watching and learning what sites I visit and my physical location.
  • Protect your communications from irresponsible corporations.
  • Protect your privacy from unscrupulous marketers and identity thieves.

How can I tweak my privacy so that Google and third parties don’t receive all my data?

  1. First get to grips with how Google uses your data which they say is just standard log information collected and used to further help improve the user’s experience. Fair enough, however, each Google Chrome installation contains a unique ID that identifies its user, and for the average user it’s tough to remove that ID.  So the first task is to do this. You can easily achieve your goal by using UnChrome to anonymize yourself.
  2. Cookies. Are they safe? This is an endless debate, but the fact remains that near to all websites use them to track and remember you so turning them off could lead to unexpected results when browsing with cookies on.
    cookie-optionsAfter you click on the little wrench on the top-right side of the browser, goto options > under the hood > content settings and check “Ignore exceptions and block third=party cookies from being sent. This will help you block those third party vendors from tracking you.
  3. If you have read this article you should know that this is where Chrome learns the most about you, by logging your data. They even say that they use only 2% of the data they receive, along with the IP addresses of it’s users in Chrome.  To disable these features goto little wrench on the top-right side of your browser, goto options > under the hood and disable these features:
    chrome-options1
  4. Google uses the omnibox (search address bar) to help you search faster—no other browser has this feature and at first glance it’s really cool. Goto the little wrench on your browser > options > basics and disable Instant for faster searching and browsing.
    chrome-omnibox
  5. Concurrently you may also disable the Chrome Auto-fill options and never save passwords, or prompt the user if you’d like to save your password for a particular site. You may also set your default search engine to Bing or Yahoo, but know that if you do this then they will receive your data (whatever’s left of it after you have tweaked) instead of Google.

Another Preventive Measure To Browse More Safely:
chrome-incogAlong with tweaking your cookies, options and search one of the safest ways to use Chrome is the Incognito Mode.  Briefly what you want to know about browsing in this mode is (a) webpages that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito aren’t recorded in your browsing and download histories and (b) all new cookies are deleted after you close all incognito windows that you’ve opened.

If you use Google Chrome in incognito mode, it will not transmit any pre-existing cookies to sites that you visit. Sites may deposit new cookies on your machine while you are in incognito mode, however. These cookies will be temporarily stored and transmitted to sites while you remain in incognito mode. They will be deleted when you close the browser or return to normal browsing mode.

How Much Does Google Already Know About Me?

What’s really interesting is that Google knows a LOT about you already. Sign into your Google Dashboard and you can clearly see what data of your they already have in their systems. I just checked that out while writing this post and they know almost everything about me including my address, phone number, email, websites, blogs, social media connections, contacts and a hell of alot more.

I can’t help but thinking how much data they have in their centers and how that number is growing exponentially with more and more people using their services. You can try disabling your web history as well, but at this stage for both you and I, it probably doesn’t matter.

The point of this whole article is to get to know how privacy works in Google Chrome and clearly understand the preventive measures you can take to help people / companies from snooping or your data. Make no mistake of it, you are being watched in some form of the other, whether it’s Google, Facebook, Microsoft, an ISP which or even a third party snoop.

Protecting yourself online is an art that even the most novice user should understand and embrace, especially with the internet in this day and age. I’m certain that end users don’t have control over everything but it’s clearly important to understand and use what you can control now and prepare yourself for the future.

Bonus:  Try using Tor and defend your personal freedom and privacy while browsing online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *