The Trouble With Google Chrome

Google Chrome is the most used web browser in the world by a long shot.  The two biggest continents, Asia and Africa, are mobile-majority markets, meaning the majority of people accessing the world wide web on a daily basis, do so via their smart phones (and Chrome is an integral part of the Android operating system). This is also the case for a many countries in Europe and South America and since March 2015 the number of mobile-only adult internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only users with about 1%. That number is climbing every month.

Chrome is a relative latecomer to the web browser party and has only been around since December 2008. Shortly after, an open-sourced version was released under the Chromium name to help port the development to the Mac OS and Linux and about a year later beta versions for Mac OS X and Linux were released. Since then Chrome’s market share increased rapidly. In the ten years since then, Chrome has climbed to the number one browser spot with 71% (July 2019) worldwide browser market share on traditional PCs and 63% market share across all platforms.

Chrome has been an integral part of the (Google) Android operating system since 2012 and whether you like it or not, it is tracking your every move while you surf away on the internet. The main way Google spies on you is by “cookie tracking”. When you use the web you send out data about your activity and location back to Google. Chrome and most of the other internet services, use these cookie data to track metrics to customise your web experience as well as track advertising performance.

Aside from cookies, Chrome also tracks you through your IP address, log-in information and some browser user agents. Your web activity extends to what you search, save and download on services such as Maps, Search, Voice search, Play Store, YouTube, etc. According to Google your activity is kept to give you more personalised experiences, like faster and more relevant searches and more helpful content.

Don’t get me wrong, Chrome is a cracker of a browser! But if you are concerned about privacy at all, that’s what you’re sacrificing if you use Chrome with all its features.

 

So why is this bad? 

All this information about your online activity is neatly stored and packaged and sold to the highest advertising bidder, so to speak.

Now you might be wondering “how do I find out what information Google is collecting about me?

  • Log into your Google account
  • Go to the upper right-hand corner, where is displays your profile picture, your name of first letter of your Google sign-in.
  • Just below it, click on Manage your Google Account.
Google Data Collection

This is where you can see what Google has been collecting on you and it gives you the option to review and change your privacy settings.

The following options are displayed:

  • Personal Info – Basic info, such as your name and photo, that you use on Google services. Click on the fields (>) to expand and view the information and to change your sharing options.
  • Data & personalisation – Your data, activity and preferences that help make Google services more useful to you. This is where you’ll find a long list of all your tracked activities. If privacy is an issue with you at all, take some time here and click through all the options.
  • Security – Settings and recommendations to help you keep your account secure. Also settings here for third party app access and sign-in to other web sites.
  • People & sharing – People that you interact with and the info that you make visible on Google services such as location sharing and personal information sharing.
  • Payments & subscriptions – Your payment info, transactions, recurring payments and reservations.

There is some good news though, Chrome has a “Do not track” setting which can be activated which lets you request that they stop monitoring your every move.

Alternatively, there are ways to delete your Google activity. If you are still signed in,

  • go to Data & Personalization in the left menu.
  • Scroll down to Activity & Timeline and click My Activity.
  • On the left side is Delete Activity by option or you can delete recent individual activities by clicking on the 3-dot menu on the right side of the activity description/header.

 

So what is the alternative?

Google’s privacy issues aside, the other reason why you might consider another web browser would be that Chrome is VERY resource hungry. It uses a lot of memory and when you are on an entry or mid spec PC you can really see the impact on performance and battery life.

Alternative browsers I can gladly recommend

Vivaldi browser – it’s a stripped down version of what Chrome is supposed to be. It has all the basics down, it is fast and best of all has a kicker user interface and customization settings. You can download it here.

Opera – my daily browser. It has a list of built in features, quick browsing experience, cross-device sharing is a breeze and highly customizable. Available here for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.

Brave Browser – polished, fast, private and secure new web browser for PC, Mac and mobile.  Download it here.