In terms of protecting your privacy, Google Chrome is somewhere between horrible and dreadful. Google operates an extensive data collection ecosystem in which its search engine and a vast array of other products and services are used to build a profile of a person’s interests. That profile is then used to enable highly specific advertising. Chrome sits in the middle of it all, allowing Google to harvest a stunning amount of personal data about you.

Have a look at Google – My Activity for an eye-opening experience…

  • If you use Google to search for something, it will “fingerprint” your browser no matter which one you use, and regardless of whether you have ‘private browsing’ activated. (Search for Browser Fingerprinting to learn more), and save your entire history. It will come as no surprise that of all the browsers, Google Chrome is the most tightly integrated with Google Search.
  • If your browser has something called WebRTC enabled, it will extract and save your real IP address even if you are using a VPN. It’s especially interesting to note that in Chrome it’s particularly difficult to turn off WebRTC. (Search for Stop WebRTC to learn more).
  • If you use a Google Maps or Google Earth, especially from withing Chrome, it will record your entire query history (i.e. all the locations you view), the degree of zoom you use, and how long you looked at that thing (especially in street view). This will all be associated with your IP address. Note that Google is also in the process of requiring Chrome in order to be able to use apps such as Google Earth, binding user data even more tightly to Chrome’s data collection.
  • If you use apps from other people that link to Google, they will share data with Google. The amount and nature of that data can be astonishing. (See GPS is amazing, but there’s a dark side to learn more).
  • If you use an Android device, a large portion of everything you do on it can be extracted and recorded by Google. If the device you use has a telephone number associated with it, your precise identity is known to Google (via your mobile plan provider) and associated with ALL the other information listed here.
  • If you visit a website that uses Google Analytics (most do), your browser fingerprint is associated with your visit, and thereby you, if there are other identifiers available (see above).
  • If you use a Google service, such as gMail, the entire text base of all your email will be available to Google. Every word of every note you ever send or receive. Likewise with all your contacts. And attachments.
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This is not a complete list, but you get the idea.

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How can I avoid this?

It isn’t easy, because so much is collected in so many ways. But it is possible…

  • Don’t use Chrome. Period. Consider a different browser, such as Opera or Firefox with the appropriate plugins.
  • Use a different search engine. The oddly-named service DuckDuckGotracks far less about people.
  • Install Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Disable WebRTC in your browser.
  • And finally, don’t use any flavor of Android device (I know, not so easy, but there you have it).

Taking these steps will significantly reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of personal data Google is able to collect about you.

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