How to Use Google Chrome Privacy Settings

By James T. Cains

Google Chrome puts a premium on your online privacy and has a host of settings to help protect your privacy. If you’re using a personal (that is, non-work computer), you’re responsible for those settings yourself. But if you’re using a company-provided computer, you may find that your IT department has already made some of those privacy decisions for you.

To access Chrome’s privacy settings, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Chrome button in the top-right corner of the browser.

  2. Choose Settings. The Settings page displays in your browser.

  3. Scroll down and click the Show Advanced Settings link. Additional settings appear below.

  4. Scroll to the Privacy area, as displayed in Figure 1.

    Figure 1: Chrome’s privacy settings.

    Figure 1: Chrome’s privacy settings.

Source: Google

Your IT department may enforce certain privacy restrictions as part of their security policy. Those settings appear grayed out with a buildings icon next to them. You can’t change those settings, because your IT department likely has very good, security-minded reasons for enforcing them.

Here’s a quick rundown of what all those settings mean:

  • Content settings: You’ll find a whole slew of settings here to help determine how Chrome manages web site content. Those are covered in this article: How to Decipher Google Chrome’s Content Privacy Settings.

  • Clear browsing data: Use this to get rid of the browsing data that Chrome stores locally on your computer. This is covered in this article: How to Clear Your Google Chrome Browsing Data.

  • Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors: If you try to visit a page that doesn’t load, Chrome can send back to Google for help. Google tries to resolve the issue for you by suggesting alternative pages. The reason this is a privacy setting is that Chrome sends where you’re trying to go to Google. If you don’t want it to, then make sure this box is unchecked.

  • Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar or the app launcher search box: Google tries to help you in auto-completing search phrases and URLs that you type in, based on your search and browsing history, as well as other web searches that have been done on Google. Again, data is sent to Google, which you may not want to share. If you don’t mind and find Google’s help valuable, then check this box.

  • Prefetch resources to load pages more quickly (also known as “Predict network actions to improve page load performance”): This option can help speed up your browsing. When you visit a site, Chrome analyzes the links on the page and contacts those sites to download all the resources needed to render the page even before you click the link. This can make the next page display lickety-split. The caveat is, however, that those prefetched sites can set cookies in your browser before you visit them, which carries a security risk. Honestly, with broadband speeds so fast nowadays, the time you might save in prefetching resources might not be worth the risk.

  • Automatically report details of possible security incidents to Google: Google’s Safe Browsing, which is already ingrained in Chrome, relies partially on reports of security incidents from users. If Chrome has suspicions about a site or download, it will ask if you want to send a security report to Google. Enabling this setting bypasses Google asking your permission and automatically sends the report.

  • Enable phishing and malware protection: Chrome helps protect your computer by checking the URL of the web site you’re visiting against a list of web sites known to be disreputable. If it finds a match, not only do you get a warning, but the URL is also sent to Google to confirm whether the site poses a risk or not.

  • Use a web service to help resolve spelling errors: If you know you’re not going to be winning any spelling bees in the near future, then you may want to take advantage of Google’s spellcheck service. This is the same spellchecker Google uses in its search engine to provide you with relevant search results even if you misspell a word or two. Chrome does send what you type to Google, so decide for yourself if you want them to know how bad a speller you are!

  • Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google: If you want to help Google improve Chrome, you can send your usage statistics, as well as reports on when Chrome has crashed or not worked properly. This does send information such as your preferences and what you’ve clicked, but it doesn’t send your personal information.

  • Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic: If you don’t want the web sites you visit to track what you’re doing, then check this box. However, this doesn’t mean that web sites won’t collect your browsing data for their own purposes, such as serving up ads and analyzing traffic statistics. Keep in mind, though, that this is a “request,” and it’s up to the web site to decide whether it honors the request (most don’t).