Although Google gets a lot of flak for ignoring privacy issues in Chrome, user consent is something that does matter to them. In fact, their browser is required to comply with GDPR regulations in Europe and provide a consent form to users so that they can decide whether or not they wish to view personalized or non-personalized ads.
If you’re outside the EU, the basic design of Chrome remains the same. There are only a few extra steps for you to enjoy the same level of data protection as GDPR intends to achieve. While it may not be that straightforward to implement, such a procedure does exist.
Follow the simple steps as shown here to optimize your Google Chrome browser for privacy.
1. Disable Sync
Many users are concerned about Chrome eliminating an opt-in permission which used to control whether one’s Gmail profile picture should appear in their browser window. While it may be annoying, and you may not want certain websites to know about your email, it’s still possible to enable proper permission levels to override that access.
According to the Google Chrome team, just because you’re signed in “does not mean that Chrome harvests all your data and ships it to Google.” For this, you need to turn on the “sync” feature which personalizes Chrome across multiple devices.
Syncing helps you view the same information on a mobile device as well as other computers, but it’s entirely your choice to opt out of this useful feature. You can keep it permanently disabled.
Further, it’s extremely easy to disallow Chrome sign-ins while you’re planning to use services such as Gmail. Go to “Settings -> Appearance -> Advanced -> Privacy and Security” and turn off the feature followed by a simple browser restart.
Here, I’m signed in to Gmail and simultaneously not signed in to another Chrome browser window.
2. Enable “Do Not Track” Feature
From “Privacy and Security,” you can also enable a “Do not Track” feature. While this feature of Chrome is not as effective as some other privacy-focused browsers, it does exist.
Chrome’s “Do Not Track” may not entirely prevent the sites from collecting and using your browsing data, but there are many sites that do respect user preferences if it’s set as a default. These include Twitter, Medium, Reddit, and many other popular sites.
3. Clear Browser Data
From “Privacy and Security,” you can also clear all your browsing data frequently. You can choose to delete all your cookies, cached images, stored information, autofill data and browsing history.
The thing is you have to do it very frequently. If someone borrows your laptop or phone, they’ll never be able to know what sites you were on.
4. Optimize Site Settings
You can optimize a lot of Chrome browser site settings from “Privacy and Security.” This is one of the most useful sections to keep tabs on.
Chrome gives you the option to completely disallow sites to save and read cookie data. However, that may hamper your site experience, and you may not be able to login to certain websites or download files. Still, if your only intent is for sites to seek permission before they can save and read your data, it’s the closest thing to the GDPR setting discussed earlier.
However, in most cases, you do need the cookies and site data. Therefore, you can choose to clear cookies and site data automatically when you quit Chrome. You can also block third-party cookies.
Even if you’re using a VPN, sites can triangulate your location using your laptop camera and GPS features. They primarily achieve this with the help of browsers. Therefore, you can force Chrome to “ask for location” before accessing a site that needs your location. Then they just can’t have it without your permission.
On my Chrome site settings, I keep “pop-ups and redirects” blocked. I also block sites from running flash, intrusive or misleading ads, plugins and other intrusions. I also keep sounds muted unless I am on YouTube or Netflix, which are the only streaming sites I generally use.
5. 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.
In this guide, we saw how Google Chrome can be optimized to prevent websites from gaining access to things you don’t want.
Which other security and privacy provisions have you employed in Chrome? Please share them with us in the comments.