The latest release of Google Chrome has many privacy features built in. Unfortunately, many of them must be manually selected to ensure a truly private browsing experience. While one can never truly have a “private” browsing experience online, there are many steps that can be taken within Chrome’s settings that will maximize your privacy to the greatest possible extent. The addition of these features has led me back to Chrome after using Safari for many years.
The settings menu for Google Chrome can be accessed to the right of the search bar. Clicking on the three lines to the right of the search bar will open up a drop-down menu. Simply click on “Settings” to see some of Chrome’s basic setting options. Unfortunately, Google does not make the privacy options readily apparent. Once on the Settings page, there is an option at the very bottom of the page that says “Show advanced settings.” Clicking on this will open up the “Privacy” and “Passwords and forms” fields, which is what you will need to maximize your privacy when using Chrome.
Under the “Privacy” heading there are seven check boxes. Each of these directly affects your privacy while browsing the web, as they allow you to select how much data is sent back to Google while you are browsing. Personally, there are two options I would recommend selecting: “Enable phishing and malware protection” and “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic.”
The first of these options relates to phishing and malware protection. Think of these as a necessary part of a complete protection package for your computer. Phishing is the act of defrauding users by acting as a legitimate company and gathering data. Malware can be thought of as any software that is intended to damage or disable your computer. By enabling Chrome’s built-in phishing and malware protection, you are bolstering your line of defense against these threats.
A “Do Not Track” request is simply a small bit of text that is sent to the sites you visit asking them not to track you. While this may not be implemented, it is another way to attempt to protect your browsing privacy.
The remaining five check boxes deal with communication between your browser and Google regarding your usage of Chrome. Whether predicting searches or URL’s typed into the search bar or sending usage statistics and crash reports to Google, checking any of these boxes will allow Google to gather more data on you and your use of Chrome. If you are looking for the utmost in privacy, uncheck these boxes.
There are two options under “Passwords and forms” heading: “Enable Autofill to fill out web forms in a single click” and “Offer to save passwords I enter on the web.” If you are looking for the utmost in privacy, uncheck these boxes as well. While doing so may come at the cost of convenience, these measures also make small measures to increase your privacy.
In Google’s nature of less than obvious access to privacy settings, there is box under the “Privacy” heading called “Content settings.” Clicking on this, you will find more privacy options for the browser. These options include the handling of “cookies”, which are bits of information about you that are stored by your browser when you visit a site, to various options for pop-ups, location services, and more. To ensure optimal privacy, selecting “Block third-party cookies and site data” under the “Cookies” heading is an option you could take. Google is kind enough to provide recommended settings for these options, and, in general, seems to find a balance between privacy and ease of use.
Google Chrome has always been a fast browser, and now provides a full set of privacy options for users. While one can never truly have a “private” browsing experience online, there are many steps that can be taken within Chrome’s settings that will maximize your privacy to the greatest possible extent. The addition of these features has led me back to Chrome after using Safari for many years.