We often open our web browsers to look around and well, browse the web. But have you ever wondered how much information you are giving about yourself when doing so?
Google Chrome is the browser of choice for many people. Even I’m using Chrome to write this article. With millions of users worldwide though, Chrome is now turning into more of surveillance or a data mining software for Google rather than a web browser.
How bad is the situation?
Generally, Google takes ‘some’ non-private user information and uses that to target ads to you. Hence, based upon your browsing history, the websites you visit, the searches you do, and so on, you get very personalised ad recommendations.
However, this collection of user information might be getting out of hand now.
When you’re browsing the internet on Chrome, it brings along several of its friends as well. Shopping websites and now even government websites are tagging your browser and giving out information to ad and data companies to do what they please with it. While they say it’s for serving you the best and most relevant ad experience, there’s something completely different going under the hood. Should you decide to investigate, Chrome starts to look a lot like surveillance software. There is personal data being shared on absurd proportions.
You see, Chrome let’s tracker cookies straight in your system. Consider these cookies files that data companies use to track information about what websites you visit so that they can build your profile of interests, income, and even personality.
Chrome is also doing all sorts of sneaky things these days. Do you see your photo in the top right corner of the browser and your name written? This means that you’re logged in.
Don’t remember doing that? Well, Chrome automatically does that for you when you log into Gmail.
Chrome on Android is even more malicious. You’re not only giving away everything else you normally would, but also your location. If location sharing is set to off, it still sends coordinates. Less accurate, though.
Also read: If Google says a website isn’t secure, what does it really mean?
So is it time to switch?
If you’re concerned about their data getting online, yes, you can — in theory — keep using Chrome, and the ads you’re seeing will become more and more personalised. However, what data gets leaked and how else it’s getting used, that’s almost impossible to answer.
Most of the answers are buried inside the shoddy privacy policies nobody gives a damn to read. Even if you do, there is quite a lot of wordplay in there.
The latest iteration of FireFox by Mozilla is a much safer alternative if you’re looking to switch. FireFox blocks out a lot of tracker cookies that Chrome would otherwise let straight into your computer.
It isn’t perfect, though. FireFox does use Google as its default search engine, and some tracker cookies do make their way into the browser. It does collect data too. What matters is, it doesn’t send data back to Mozilla, which in turn, isn’t a data collection company as well. DuckDuckGo is another good option for smartphone users. You can even use it as your default browser to enhance privacy online.
If you’re looking to be completely bulletproof though, something like TOR Browser is your best bet. Using TOR in combination with a VPN will pretty much make you untraceable on the internet. This makes it one of the safest, most anonymous ways of browsing the internet in 2019. You might find these alternatives to Google Chrome useful too.
Also read: How to disable incognito mode in Chrome on Windows, Android and iOS [Safari]
Featured image by Jonathan-Kemper