Chrome Provides Dedicated Privacy Options

I was browsing the web when I ran across a statement about Google Chrome that I’ve seen echoed in different ways in the last couple months: “the reality is that Google Chrome is sending basic info about my pc back to them. Is Google the new “Big Brother” looking over everybodies [sic] shoulder…you betch ya.”

I’ve covered the issue of when Chrome communicates on your behalf before, but recent versions of Chrome have made it even easier to understand. Back in early November, the Chrome team addressed this concern:

Privacy section in Options.
We grouped together all of the configuration options for features that might send data to another service. Open the wrench menu, click Options, and select the Under the Hood tab.

And here’s a picture of what the Privacy section looks like:

Chrome privacy options

There’s also a link to this web page with more information on each option, and from that web page you can drill down in more detail into any specific feature that interests you. For example, I opted-in to send usage/crash data to Google to improve future versions of Chrome (that option is off by default).

I like that you can manage Chrome’s communications settings in a centralized location. I don’t consider features such as phishing protection or DNS pre-fetching to be worrisome, but it’s nice to give easy controls to turn features on or off. I don’t expect that will stop people from mistakenly repeating that Chrome is somehow scary or has privacy issues, but for the people that care enough to do the research, they’ll be happy to find out that Chrome lets you choose exactly how and when Chrome sends data to the outside world.

By the way, I think Chrome was released on September 2, 2008, which makes it the four-month birthday of Chrome. Happy birthday to the Google Chrome team!

25 Responses to Chrome Provides Dedicated Privacy Options (Leave a comment)

  1. Great!

    Can you tell me if the option to send usage statistics the only one that is off by default?

  2. Happy 4 mo Birthday Chrome! I don’t consider this phising either Matt as – as you mentioned – you control the communication!

  3. Matt, it sounds like the community is finding ways to address a show-stopper difference between Chrome and Firefox: the former’s lack of an ad blocker. When people complain about the lack of plug-in / add-on support, the first one mentioned is always AdBlock.

    I assume you’ve seen http://blogote.com/2008/featured-article/google-chrome-with-firefox-addon.html. I’m curious to hear your thoughts, since I’d wondered whether Google did not want Chrome users to be able to block ads and had consciously designed to make it difficult for them to do so.

  4. I understand people being concerned about “big brother”, but my big brothers always pulled through for me when I needed them. The problem is that too many people want to pick and choose beyond reason and they often contradict themselves. Google conspiracy theorists speak of the fears of Google having “their” information, while at the same time they complain if Google does *not* have their information. It is as if public demand and need for Google’s access to information is good, but only if it shows an immediate and direct benefit to them. I guess you cannot please all of the people all of the time, but Google comes pretty close. :-D

  5. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but I personally won’t be using Chrome until it includes an option to disable the whole automatic updates thing. Firefox, Opera, and other modern browsers enable the users to decide if and when they will upgrade to new versions. Even with the new privacy options, Chrome is still way too invasive.

  6. Dave (originial)

    Chrome is so fast ;)

  7. I’ve seen some forum posts that talk about how Google is now able to track a person’s physical location and every move, if that person buys a G1 phone. Oh well.

  8. This privacy option is surely get some more firefox lovers to chrome !!

  9. Sebastian

    and where is my mac version?
    they need to work on that above all else …
    /cry

  10. Sorry Matt but Chrome should be close to a commodity in order for user to switch to it just like Hal Varian explains in his lock-in strategy. :)

    Wishing you a Happy 2009 to you and your family.

    Elias – Sweden

  11. Dave (originial)

    If Google want to collect personal information about my online activities, they have my full consent. Same goes for the Goverment.

    Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing and I have more important things to worry about. Besides, Tin-foil hats are too unconfortable :)

  12. Hey guys,

    I tried chrome but didnt quite cut it for me… much prefer firefox at the mo.

    Dan

    http://www.DanBriffa.com

  13. @Dave (Original): Haven’t you heard? Tin foil is in this season.
    @The General Topic: My issues with Google’s and their user data isn’t so much that it’s Google in charge of the data, but rather the sheer amount of data collected. I don’t think it’s misinformation when to say that Chrome has privacy implications. The fact is, Google always has a reason to have userdata(otherwise there’d be more resistance). They really do. But whether it’s usage is constrained to the stated purpose is what worries me.
    And by the way, I was/am one of the critics of Chrome, but I did do research. I sniffed the requests myself.

    However, I will concede that the privacy options are a step in the right direction.

  14. Dave (originial)

    By the way, I think Chrome was released on September 2, 2008, which makes it the four-month birthday of Chrome. Happy birthday to the Google Chrome team!

    Birthday in that case would be September 2, 2009 (12 Months in a Year, not 4) :)

  15. A late happy birthday from me ( 4months aniversary), for the Google Chrome team.

    Glad to see you are fixing some of the issues raised by the users.

  16. I personally dont care if Google is looking over my shoulder, so long as it helps make the search better.

    But I prefer Firefox.

  17. Daniel Tunkelang, you can do some hacky Greasemonkey scripts now with the enable-greasemonkey command-line option, so you could probably rig up some form of ad blocking that way.

  18. have they fixed the bug that alows you to see saved paswords ?

  19. The only reason I have not yet made the switch to Chrome is that I’m worried I will like it more than Firefox. I must say between Gmail, Google analytics and Chrome Google really has a close eye on everything.

  20. Matt, you have been covering on Chrome a lot lately and I’m just curious about the intention of you pushing this much on this. Apperantly Google has some hidden agenda on getting inside the browser market rather then supporting Firefox team but I just can’t see what’s really lying under this action. Google has some immense number of applications out there especially through google labs and google code projects and I have not seen you covering on them this vigorously.

    Personally, as far as privacy concerns, till Google Chrome allows me to use “Google Customize” addon from Firefox, I’m not planning to switch to Chrome.

  21. I’m not going to put links here but it’s easy enough to find the posts I’m about to mention:

    There was a blog post this morning that suggested that game developers shouldn’t be ignoring OS X and Linux. I agree, but think it goes farther than that: all developers, including Google, shouldn’t be ignoring those platforms.

    A lot of the more powerful influencers of opinion don’t run Windows. Have any of us seen Chrome yet? No, last I looked it couldn’t even be built on OS X – I didn’t check Linux then but it was probably the same or worse.

    Yes, Windows still has 90% (and slipping!) of the market. But just as a total WAG I’d bet OS X and Linux have 60-70% of the market when it comes to people who are active in the technology field, who write about technology, who advise others about technology.. of course that’s just a guess out of left field but it sure feels right.

    Yet Google always does its Windows work first and lets OS X and Linux drag. I think Google is making a mistake on that, especially with Chrome.

  22. Matt, that’s a fair point–I hadn’t thought of GreaseMonkey as an enabler. I also just read http://dev.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/extensions where AdBlock is called out as a content filtering use case. I’m glad to see that Google is planning for an open extension ecology like Firefox’s. I might even switch to Chrome when that vision becomes a reality!

    Also, while I have your attention, let me know if you’re interested in being part of the SIGIR 2009 Industry Track. I’d send email to you personally, but rumor has it that your email goes to /dev/null. :-)

    http://thenoisychannel.com/2008/12/16/sigir-09-industry-track/

  23. Dave (originial)

    @Mehmet Buyukozer

    It sure would be better for Google to make Chrome open agenda rather than open source.

  24. Moazam

    Almost every time when I open chrome browser i get weird errors.. sometimes it says Ah.. unable to capture snap.. or sometimes it even gets worst.. it never close. I have to use task manager to close this application.. whew!!! Please don’t promote such browsers which are full with bugs..

  25. This is (admittedly) off topic, however, as a rather devoted statistics geek, I have been following the adoption of Google Chrome quite closely. It is really amazing watching the percentage of Chrome users steadily creep up!

    Good work Google – I love my Chrome and I have loved watching its rise in popularity! And thank you for finally installing a sense of humour in the PC world!

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