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Must have Privacy Settings for Google Chrome OS and Browser

by Felix Omondi

If you have ever used a Chromebook, then you should know that it is probably the easiest computer to get used to, given it requires virtually no installations. It comes with just about everything you could ever want from a Chromebook, already installed.

Then when you think about the fact that it is a device made by Google, you immediately know that it was not built with privacy in mind. I mean how could it, Google is one of the largest data mining corporation in the history of the universe.

So does it mean there’s no Privacy with Chromebooks?

That is most certainly not the truth. You can use Google’s device but still get to cover a good part of your data away from prying eyes. We are going to show you how, below:

#1 -Disable the following ‘Privacy and Security’ settings

Chromebooks were designed from the ground-up with the intention of getting you online and surfing the internet as quickly as possible. And while you are online, the devices want to facilitate your easy and convenient browsing in the best way possible.

To do that, the device needs to send your usage data to Google for them to analyze and tweak up the system to improve your user experience. And while it does that, Google also uses that data to send you highly targetted ads.

As it works out, Google makes revenues out of advertisements while you get to enjoy free access to a lot of their services. We earlier featured the anti-trust case Google is facing in places like Europe and now the U.S. with the allegation that it is anti-competition and squashes little businesses that do not pay for its ads. More on that here.

That is not to say if you are going to use Chromebook or the Chrome browser, Google must get your data. You can actually disable some of the trackings the company is doing on you by disabling the features below:

Go to Settings > Privacy and Security and disable the following:

Prediction service that completes your searches and URLs as you type in the address bar or in the app launcher search box in Chromebook.

Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly

Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors

Automatically send diagnostic and usage data to Google

Help improve Safe Browsing

Use a web service to help resolve spelling errors

#2 – Disable or Encrypt Data Synchronization

A browser’s main work is to connect you to the internet, but you do need to make bookmarks in order to make it easier for you to remember some of the websites URLs. Your browsing history also plays an important role in case you need to look at where you have been.

With Chromebook and Chrome browser (well just about every mainstream browser) this information (history and bookmarks) is now stored in the cloud. So that it can be synchronized across all your connected devices.

Please note for the synchronization to happen, you need to surrender your bookmarks, history, and even passwords to Google servers; that is the ‘cloud’. You will simply be feeding more information to Google, and they will even know your password, and God forbid should they ever be hacked.

You can disable synchronization on Chromebook by going to People > Sync and then turning off the Sync everything feature. However, I understand why you may be skeptical about disabling synchronization; having your bookmarks, passwords, and history makes working with multiple devices seamless.

Instead, you can opt for encrypting your synced data using a passphrase. This option is available under the toggles mentioned above. You will be asked to create a passphrase that you will enter on each device you want to sync with your Google account.

Once you activate encryption, Google server will continue storing your browsing data, but the company will not have a way to decipher that data since it is encrypted. The biggest problem with this option is if you ever forget your passphrase. Since Google does not provide a way to recover the passphrase in this case. That will mean you will lose all your synced data.

#3 – Turn on ‘Safe Browsing’ and ‘Do Not Track’

Go to Privacy and security and you will find Safe Browsing. A feature that blocks poorly secured and malicious websites from opening in your browser. As an extra layer of security, turn on Do Not Track to block websites from monitoring your behavior.

The latter feature prevents websites from knowing how much time you spend on certain web pages and the type of information that picks your interest the most. Though in all honestly, websites need to track you to provide you with most relevant content based on your interest. However, as they do so, they quickly build up a profile about you, can preempt your behavior, and can ‘listen in’ on your online activities.

#4 – Disable location tracking

Based on your IP address, websites can figure out your geographical location based on location tracking. You can disable this feature by going to Privacy and security > Content settings > Location.

When a web service is trying to determine your location, Chrome will initially ask you to allow your location to be shared. You will then have the option of opting in or out. Doing so on navigation websites such as Google Maps will require you to manually enter your address. Just like people used to before GPS came in-built in most mobile devices and computers.

#5- Never save your Addresses and Payments methods online

You cannot avoid filling out forms online; not in these days of online businesses, schooling, and government services. Google baked a really cool feature on Chrome that will relieve you of the burden of having to remember passwords and usernames.

Of course, what that means is that you have to surrender your information to Google servers. Then again you can decide to go the hard way and remember all your usernames, and passwords on your head. Not leave it to Google through your browser to remember it for you.

For more tips on secure browsing, follow this link.

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