Google and Chrome are a bit shaky on the privacy front. If you were being cynical, you could say that they hardly have a privacy front at all – tracking your web browsing, gathering up your personal data, and using it all to pepper you with targeted ads (which bothers some people more than others).
If you’re in the Google ecosystem of Gmail, Drive, Google+ and so on, then you’re pretty much signing up to have your personal data scanned by the company’s algorithm bots. But at least you can protect yourself to an extent when using Chrome, which has several privacy options that’ll keep you covered … to an extent.
1. Turn Off Location History
Location History has echoes of a sci-fi dystopia about it. Unbeknownst to most people, this feature tracks your movements literally wherever you go, letting you (or, say, someone who’s stolen your phone or accessed your Google account) see where you’ve been every second of every day that you’re logged into a Google account. Freaky stuff.
To disable this feature, go to your account page by clicking your profile picture at the top right of Google, Gmail, or other Google service, then clicking “My Account.” Next, click “Personal info & privacy -> My Activity -> Activity Controls,” and then scroll down to Location History. (Click “Manage Activity” here to see just how accurately this service has been tracking you.) Once you’re done being appalled, click the blue slider next to Location History to turn it off.
2. Change Your Search Engine to a Non-Tracking One
This is a simple thing to do really, but then it’s also simple to just slip into the habit of using Google to search for things because it’s just “there” all the time. So break out of the cycle and set another more privacy-friendly search engine to use as your default instead.
DuckDuckGo is the fashionable option these days, and it doesn’t track any of your search terms, encrypts your data, and all the usual privacy bells and whistles. But another one worth considering is Startpage which runs Google searches by proxy, so that it gets all the power of Google’s search results without Google knowing it’s you doing the browsing. When looking through search results, you can click the “By Proxy” option under each result so the site you click through to can’t track you!
3. Clear Cookies Automatically
By this point, most people know that cookies aren’t as sweet or innocent as their names suggest – they allow websites to create files on your computer that store information about your web behaviour within given websites. Sites like Amazon, for example, use them to present you with tailored shopping recommendations on the homepage.
Some people don’t mind this, but those who do can set the cookies to get deleted automatically each time you close your browser. Click the menu icon at the top right of “Chrome -> Settings -> Show advanced settings -> Privacy -> Content settings,” then under Cookies click “Keep local data only until you quit your browser.”
4. Use Google Privacy Checkup
A lightweight web tool, Privacy Check-up lets you play around with your sharing/privacy settings across various Google service like Photos, YouTube, Google+, and so on. It’s pretty self-explanatory once you’re on the page and is a neatly-presented way of making sure certain activities of yours are as private as you want them to be.
5. Enable “Do No Track”
People have mixed feelings about this one because although it technically prevents sites from tracking your web activity, it’s completely optional. So even if you enable it, whether or not it’ll work will be at the discretion of the sites you visit.
With that in mind, here’s how to turn it on: click the menu icon in “Chrome -> Settings -> Show advanced settings,” then under Privacy tick the “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request …” box.
While these tips should go some way towards alleviating your privacy anxieties via Chrome, the fact remains that Google relies on your data to keep going, and if you’re using its services, then the trade-off is a chunk of your web privacy. Ultimately, if you feel uncomfortable with all of Google’s prying, then it might be worth bowing out of the Google ecosystem altogether, as hard as that may seem!