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How to Optimize Google Chrome for Maximum Privacy

Google Chrome sends personal data to Google by default, but it doesn’t have to. We’ll show you what information each feature sends to Google and why, so you can get the goodness of the Chrome browser without sacrificing privacy.

Each option provides an advantage, so you’ll lose some of Google Chrome’s features by disabling many of these options. Still, you can make informed decisions if you’re worried about Chrome sending data to the mothership.

Image by Symbiotic

Instant

Click the wrench menu at the upper right corner of the Google Chrome window, then click Options to view Chrome’s options page.

Chrome’s instant search works just like Google’s search page; a full Google search results page appears as soon as you start typing in Chrome’s address bar. Chrome sends everything you type into the address bar to Google if this is on, even if you’re typing a website address.

Instant is disabled by default for now, but you can uncheck the Enable Instant check box on the Basics tab if it’s enabled.

Sync

Chrome can synchronize your bookmarks, extensions, passwords and other browser data between your computers, but it does this by storing the data on Google’s servers.

If you’re not comfortable sharing this information with Google, click the Disconnect button on the Personal stuff tab to disable Chrome sync entirely.

Chrome can also encrypt your personal data, so you can store it on Google’s servers in an unreadable form. Click the Advanced button in the Sign In section and select “Encrypt all synced data” to activate Chrome’s encryption.

Use the “Choose my own passphrase” option and set up your own passphrase to ensure Google can’t read your personal data. You’ll need this passphrase on each computer you sync Chrome with.

Privacy Settings

The privacy section on the Under the Hood tab contains five different privacy options.

When Chrome can’t connect to a website, it sends the website’s address to Google. Google sends website and search suggestions in response, and Chrome Chrome displays them on a customized error page. Uncheck the Navigation Errors checkbox if you don’t want Chrome informing Google of website addresses when they won’t load.

Chrome sends everything you type into the address box to your default search engine. Google uses this information to offer similar website addresses and related searches in the menu that appears below the address bar. Disable the Prediction Service check box and Chrome won’t send everything you type into the box to Google.

Chrome automatically looks up the IP addresses of websites linked to from your current page. Sometimes, Chrome automatically loads a new web page in the background when the website you’re visiting instructs it to. The Predict Network Actions check box controls this behavior.

Google’s safe browsing feature has Chrome automatically download a list of potentially dangerous websites. When you visit a website that appears on the list, Chrome sends a portion of that website’s address to Google in an obfuscated form along with your IP address and a cookie, and Google tells Chrome whether the website is actually dangerous. Chrome won’t provide a warning when you access malicious websites if you disable this feature by unchecking the “Enable phishing and malware protection” check box.

The last option is the only one that’s disabled by default. It causes Chrome to send detailed information about crashes, preferences and other general browser information to Google if you enable it. Chrome never sends the address of every website you visit to Google, but it will send the full address of potentially malicious websites if you enable this option.

Cookies

Click the Content Settings button in the Privacy section to view more options.

Enable the “Block third-party cookies” check box to prevent Chrome from accepting third-party cookies, which are often used by advertisers to track you online. Some websites won’t work properly if you enable this option, so you might have to disable it later.

Select the “Allow local data to be set for the current session only” option to have Chrome automatically delete cookies when you close it. This approach isn’t as drastic as disabling cookies entirely; websites that depend on cookies will still work. Websites won’t be able to track you over time with cookies, although you’ll have to log back into all your accounts after reopening Chrome.

Location Tracking

Scroll down to the Location section on the Content Settings pane and ensure the location feature isn’t set to Allow All Sites. Chrome’s geolocation feature allows websites to track your physical location and offer local content such as weather or directions, but Chrome asks you before sharing your location with websites by default. You can also set the option to Do Not Allow to disable the location-sharing feature entirely.


Whether you’ve disabled all the features listed here or left the ones that seem useful enabled, you’re now in control of Chrome’s privacy options. SRWare Iron makes many of the same changes, but it’s a one-size-fits-all solution.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/20/11

Comments (29)

  1. RonV42

    Thanks for this info Google really scattered all these collection points throughout Chrome. One would think that there would be one checkbox to do this. I find in my router logs even with ticking as many privacy settings Chrome still calls home too often.

  2. Reggaeman2

    Thanks – very interesting and nice to know
    nuff respect

  3. David P

    Thank you for that nice summary. I’ll bookmark for future reference as I’m no longer using Chrome now that developers yanked out the side tabs feature. For a good alternative that already comes with the privacy lockdown (and side tabs!) SRware Iron, at srware.net and based on the Chrome source code, makes a good choice.

  4. Cam2644

    Why not just use Firefox?
    Now just as fast as Chrome with more extras and much much more secure!

  5. Demonkunga

    @Cam2644 Much much more secure eh? Says who? Chrome is better than every other browser out there in every way right now. Firefox is now finally bummed down to being a “special group of people using it” like Opera and Safari. I personally love FX and CH, but I can’t seem to stick with Chrome since FX 4 came out.

  6. Grazely

    Interesting Chrome privacy information. Thanks!

  7. Cirric

    I have used Chrome for quite a while but recently it no longer plays nicely with Facebook. An update? I don’t know. But they need to fix it.

  8. Chris Hoffman

    @RonV42 Yup, Chrome will still communicate with Google a bit, even if you use these options — Google Update continually checks for new Chrome releases and security updates.

  9. Anonymous

    I know Google’s philosophy is “do no evil.” Even so, don’t good intentions always just lead to hell?!

    I don’t use chrome and here’s one more reason why.

    I especially hate the fact that some people think Chrome is more popular simply because it’s downloaded more often. That’s bull! Chrome is downloaded more often due to crap-ware installers and crumby new services such as CNet’s new downloader widget (which you have to download and run every time in order to actually download/install what you were interested in). In the case of Firefox (and others), you actually have to look for it and then download it in order to use it. You simply can’t “catch” a different browser because you wanted to install the latest version of Angry Birds, for example. But with Chrome, you almost don’t have to do anything at all since installing Chrome is almost as bad as certain tool bars. Therefore, Chrome itself is nothing more than junk which I’ve always said people should try to avoid.

    So you see. Google may not want to do evil but they still do it! STOP USING CHROME!!!

  10. Dantv

    Tell me please, how do keep private from that Spyware company know as Google?

  11. Demonkunga

    December 20, 2011 9:08 pm
    Anonymous

    In response, Chrome isn’t the most popular or the most downloaded. It’s the most used. When you go to a website it knows what browser you’re using. Sites like statcounter use that data to make their graphs.

  12. Tonto

    I tried Google Chrome but was alarmed at the amount of tracking it does. Does Google work for the CIA, MI6 etc.?

    For any financial transactions I use the Comodo Dragon. It’s fast and secure. It is not as friendly as Firefox but is not nosey

  13. John Robie

    What about the more security oriented Chromium-based Iron? It’s pretty much just like Chrome but doesn’t communicate with Google.

  14. D.D.
  15. Karina Kaminski

    Very nice but we don’t all use Chrome; how about a guide for IE9 and one for Firefox?

  16. Chris

    Cool article but Google + Privacy = LoL

    Google is the biggest data mining company on earth, they probably have so much hidden crap built in.

  17. Dennis

    Firefox, regardless of the fact that alot don’t use it anymore, is still the browser of choice for me, chrome isn’t setup right, I don’t like the fact that there isn’t a bookmarks tab and everything seems hidden and you have to hunt to find anything, and now to find that it sends everything you type back to google, is another good reason to just leave it alone.

  18. Demonkunga

    You people don’t seem to understand. You’re so scared of Google. Paranoid about everything. Some paranoia is good, but when you go overboard and you don’t even know the facts, it isn’t. If you want to make Chrome a browser that doesn’t make a peep to Google, do what I’ve listed here: http://i.imgur.com/C6zY9.jpg and read this: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/google-chrome-communication/ so you can learn a thing or two instead of crying like babies about Google taking over the world and harvesting all your data via Chrome.

  19. CitrusRain

    Hmm….

    I use Chromium at home whenever I can. (can’t figure it out for windows, but I get it onto ubuntu with no problem)

    Now… I’ve been told that Chromium doesn’t track it’s users. But now I’m wondering how? Since it has all these same features availible. Do they go to a 3rd party server or is it not as private as I was lead to believe?

  20. Demonkunga

    @CitrusRain
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromium_%28web_browser%29#Differences_from_Google_Chrome

    Chromium is the name given to the open source project and the browser source code released and maintained by the Chromium Project.[7] It is possible to download the source code and build it manually on many platforms. Google takes this source code and adds:

    an integrated Flash Player[8]
    a built-in sandboxed PDF viewer[9]
    the Google name and logo
    an auto-updater system called GoogleUpdate
    an opt-in option for users to send Google their usage statistics and crash reports
    RLZ tracking when Chrome is downloaded as part of marketing promotions and distribution partnerships. This transmits information in encoded form to Google, e.g. when and from where Chrome has been downloaded. In June 2010, Google confirmed that the RLZ tracking token is not present in versions of Chrome downloaded from the Google website directly or in any version of Chromium. The RLZ source code was also made open source at the same time so that developers can confirm what it is and how it works.[10]

    By default, Chromium only supports Vorbis, Theora, and WebM codecs for the HTML5 audio and video tags; whereas Google Chrome supports these plus AAC and MP3. On 11 January 2011, the Chrome Product manager, Mike Jazayeri, announced that Chrome will no longer support the H.264 video format for its HTML5 player, equally as Chromium does not.[11] Certain Linux distributions may add support for other codecs to their customized versions of Chromium.[12]

    Those are the differences between Chrome and Chromium.

  21. CitrusRain

    @Demonkunga

    Okay. So I’m just opted-in to all the things.

    I really thought there was more than that… sad part is – I’ve read that exact excerpt a few times before.

  22. Chris Hoffman

    @Karina Kaminski

    Good idea. I’ll try to write tutorials for other Web browsers soon!

  23. Sipra

    Can you please tell me what is the best browser as far as security goes?

  24. Ricardo Simões

    Just use SW Iron instead of Chrome “SRWare Iron: The browser of the future – based on the free Sourcecode “Chromium” – without any problems at privacy and security”

    https://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php

  25. luca brazie

    PLEASE,how do i get anything and everything of Facebook off of my computer??????

  26. Way

    You guys are funny talking of securities and such. You all probly use Facebook which started in college campass by hackers and still have law suites pending on them for switching securities on you. Read this on ITT tech sites and neveer used it.

    I use Avant browser for years with fewest of errors and is fast.

    The Opera is a pig on data on older PCs.

    IE9 has some problems till patched for settings on flash.

    I just personally care for FireFox but has its pluses.

    So it basically up to users preferences and knowledge of how to setup and secure youself on the browser offered settings or rebuilding of browser if your in to programming.

  27. BennyBeat

    @ Luca Brazie,
    First of all, What OS & Browser you use???

    If you use Firefox, go to CTRL+H (History) then select “facebook.com” folder, right click on it and click on “Forget this site” option.
    Try cleaning Cookies, Cache, Forms or preference site, too. That’s all ;)

    Also you can find “Facebook” word content through some search utility like as the default “built-in-your-OS” file finder (Nautilus on Linux, Finder on Mac or Search on Windows) or F3 key (in most OS).

    I hope this can slve your problem.

    Cheers,
    Benny ^_^”

  28. quagmire

    you may want to mention a bit about disabling the Remoting Viewer plugin in Chrome that is enabled by default, as part of your security article. This is a beta version of a plugin to allow remote desktop viewing in Chrome. Installed and Enabled by default. It is useless unless you have Chrome Remote Desktop app installed and it could potentially be a dangerous security risk.

    disable it by going to Chrome options > under the hood > content settings > Plugins > Disable individual plug-ins… and clicking the disable link under Remoting Viewer

    Remoting Viewer
    Name: Remoting Viewer
    Version:
    Location: internal-remoting-viewer
    Disable
    MIME types:
    MIME type Description File extensions
    application/vnd.chromium.remoting-viewer
    .
    pepper-application/x-chromoting

  29. Chris Hoffman

    Interesting. The plug-in shouldn’t do anything, but it’s theoretically possible that a security flaw could exploit it. Doubtful, though. I wouldn’t worry about that one too much — though it never hurts to disable unnecessary plug-ins.

    Thanks for commenting!

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