Post: Google Chrome: Just Say No
Yes, it's that time again. Time for my quarterly Cybersecurity message. This quarter the subject is Google Chrome. If you don't have a need to use Google's Chrome web browser then don't. We've known for a long time that there's all kinds of spyware in Chrome. One only has to enable an outbound firewall to see that. However, now Google itself has come out and admitted that Chrome is chock full of all kinds of nasty stuff that watches what you do, records it all in real-time, and then transmits it back to Google when it thinks you're not looking. Google uses your data to build a more detailed dossier on you. What's in your dossier? How about your known habits, what you like to buy, your favorite brands, and those that you avoid, your political and religious affiliations, and where you like to spend most of your time online. They do this so they can better target you with those creepy ads that follow you around the web. You know the kind I'm talking about. We've all experienced it before and it's extremely unsettling when it happens.
Worse yet, Google then sells your data to Google "Partners" who can do what they want with it. Google currently has no rules in place governing what can and cannot be done with your data once it's in the hands of an external Google clients. At first they harvested your data via their Google Search engine. That worked well enough, but they knew that in order to generate more detailed data that they needed an even more capable data harvesting machine. That's when they hit on the idea of combining Google Search, your Google user ID, and the Google Chrome web browser. How bad is it, really? Well, Google Chrome is now well-know as not only being the least privacy-friendly browser there is, but it's also one of the most resource-intensive browsers on the market. It sits at the top of nearly every list out there of web browsers to avoid if you value your privacy or if your machine is stretched thin when it comes to RAM and storage space.
Google is one of those rare companies that has garnered a ton of good will from the community because they routinely give away most of their services. Google Chrome, Mail, Calendars, Photos, Android OS, etc. are all free, or are they? There's an old adage that fits this situation quite well: If you don't pay for a product and/or service then you are the product and/or service. In Google's case they don't charge for access to these services, therefore they don't make any money from them. Instead, they have to make money some other way and that is by mining your personal data for value and then selling that collected data for a profit. Try to think about this the next time you make a semi-sensitive search on Google's search engine via their own web browser, when you send a private email in Gmail, or when you upload photos to Google Photos from your smartphone.
If you have to use a Chrome-based browser then use Brave or Vivaldi. Both are made by companies that have stripped out Google's invasive tracking software from the Chromium source code that the Chrome browser is made from. Better yet, download and use Mozilla's Firefox web browser, or just use Apple's Safari browser if you're a macOS user. For search, switch to DuckDuckGo search. Yes, it's a silly name, but your searches are not tracked and DuckDuckGo produces search results that are on par with or even better than what you can get from Google Search. Finally, do yourself a huge favor and install two browser extensions: uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. If you can't use Privacy Badger for some reason then download and install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension. These extensions are available for all of the major web browsers and will shield you from being tracked online. Additionally, they will also help eliminate most (if not all) of the annoying ads that litter just about every websites you visit these days.
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