Privacy on Chrome?! You got it.

Google Chrome

I know, I know. You are tired of privacy advocates telling you to quit Google Chrome. I see your situation; you need Chrome to get work done. You have reasons to use it and I recognize that. I don’t want to push you to make compromises with work by using a slow or incompatible browser, but I don’t want you to give up on privacy either. So open up Google Chrome and follow along with me to make it privacy respecting.

Step 1 – Launch settings

Launch “Settings” from the menu on the rightmost corner of your search bar. You should a screen like the one below:

Chrome Settings

Step 2 – Sync and Google Services

Click on “Sync and Google Services” option, you should a see a page similar to the below:

Sync and Google Services

Step 3 – Other Google services

Under the heading “Other Google services”, you must see some switches, which when on gives a lot of data to Google and has nothing to do with the primary operation of the browser. I recommend turning them all off. Perform a “Relaunch”, if Chrome requests for it after turning off all the switches. Your settings should look like this:

Other Google services toggles on Other Google services toggles off

Step 4 – Passwords

Go back to the main settings and under the “Auto-fill” section, click on “Passwords” option.

Passwords

I don't recommend storing passwords in browser because they are easily accessible if someone knows your computer's password. In place of that I recommend using password managers like KeepassXC or Bitwarden. If you are not comfortable you can skip to the next step but do keep a strong password on your computer and don't share it with people you don't trust.

After turning these options off, it should look like below:

Store passwords on Store passwords off

Step 5 – Payment methods

Go back to the main settings and under the “Auto-fill” section, click on “Payment methods” option.

Payment methods

Trust me, you don't want your payment and stuff stored here or anywhere. It is better to keep this in your memory or write it in a diary. Again as I said earlier, anyone with access to your computer's password can see this information.

After turning these options off, it should look like below:

Store payment methods on Store payment methods off

Step 6 – Addresses and more

Go back to the main settings and under the “Auto-fill” section, click on “Addresses and more” option.

Addresses and more

Not as critical as passwords and payment methods but still I feel it is pretty sensitive data. It can be misused, so I recommend turning these all off.

After turning these options off, it should look like below:

Store addresses and more on Store addresses and more off

Step 7 – Cookies and other site data

Cookies are small packets of data that store information for the functioning of websites. These are misused by tracking websites to uniquely identify you and build a profile about your preferences.

Go back to the main settings and under the “Privacy and security” section, click on “Cookies and other site data” option.

Cookies and other site data

Chrome by default uses this option “Block third-party cookies in Incognito”. I recommend to select “Block third-party cookies” option which enables the only websites that you actually visit to store information in the form of cookies. Note that some websites may break after selecting this option. I have tested Google and Microsoft domains and they work fine.

Block third-party cookies in Incognito enabled Block third-party cookies enabled

Scroll down and you should see 3 toggles:

3 toggles for cookies

  1. Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome – Cookies are by default stored to keep you logged in but trackers misuse this information. Turn this on but remember you will have to login into accounts every time you exit Chrome.

  2. Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic – Turn this option off. Although a feature that has a good intention, most trackers count this option for uniquely identifying you.

  3. Preload pages for faster browsing and searching – Turn this off. This option, when enabled, preloads the webpages for a faster browsing experience. The issue is that it bypasses content blockers. This is why extensions like uBlock Origin disable this feature.

3 toggles for cookies configured right

Step 8 – Site settings

Go back to main menu and now select “Site settings” option.

Site settings option

Scroll down and you should see a list of various permissions like the one below:

Permissions

Check what websites you have given sensitive permissions like location, camera and microphone. You can also turn off notifications that you find annoying.

Step 9 – Search engine

Go back to main settings and you should see a “Search engine” section. You obviously know the default search engine which is Google.

Google default search engine

You can try out Duckduckgo which is available in the selection menu. I have been using it for a year now and I find it usable. If you don't like it, there are a lot of search engines like Startpage, Searx, Mojeek, Qwant, YaCy and MetaGer. There is no reason for you to use Google, there are very great alternatives available.

Duckduckgo search engine selected

Step 10 – Advanced Settings

In the navigation bar on the left, you should see an “Advanced” section. Expand it and select “System” option under this section.

Advanced System option

I recommend turning off “Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed” if you don't need Chrome running in the background.

Chrome in background on Chrome in background off

Some more suggestions

These were the settings that you can do to make Chrome privacy friendly. There are also advanced features like profiles that you can use to isolate work and personal browsing activities. You can also install extensions like uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, Decentraleyes, etc to further avoid malicious trackers.

Well that's about it, also do checkout my post on limiting Google's tracking which will further enhance your privacy.


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