Google Chrome is the world’s most popular Internet browser. According to Statista, Chrome is used by nearly 65% of worldwide consumers—or more than 3 billion people.
Many of those users have recently received a privacy settings update that prompts them to review “Enhanced Ad Privacy in Chrome.” Employing a warm color palette and inviting language, the prompt provides users with two clickable options: Settings or Got It.
Most people are likely to give the prompt a quick look before clicking Got It. But cybersecurity experts say the new settings call for closer examination since they could have a big impact on user privacy and personal data.
In reality, the new privacy settings are tied to the latest ways that Google hopes to track web activity and deliver more targeted advertisements. The company claims that this represents a big improvement over older tracking methods and a shift away from the cookies that were long installed on a user’s device.
But as Heather Kelly, technology reporter for The Washington Post, said in a widely shared recent article, “It’s still tracking — and people who care about their privacy may want to shut it off.”
What privacy settings should be adjusted?
First and foremost, these adjustments shouldn’t be made without some forethought. If you’re hesitant about changing any settings, a trusted IT provider like CMIT Solutions can help. But if you’d like to take a proactive step toward heightened security, here’s what you can do:
- In your Chrome browser, click on Settings > Privacy and Security > Ad Privacy.
- Three options will show up: Ad Topics, Site-Suggested Ads, and Ad Measurement. to enhance privacy and security, you can turn them off individually.
- The Ad Topics setting leverages your browsing history to examine what subjects you’ve recently searched for and then delivers personalized ads related to the topic.
- For instance, if you’re in the market for a new computer and do some research about different models, you might start seeing ads for MacBooks, Windows laptops, or Chromebooks. Google claims that these topics are erased from your Ad Topics history after about a month, but savvy users know that isn’t always the case.
- The Site-Suggested Ads setting grants permission to individual websites that you visit to make comparable conclusions about your interests and display related ads on other sites.
- For instance, if you check sports news or scores every morning on ESPN, follow-up ads for fantasy football may be served to you while you check your Gmail inbox. Chrome’s new privacy settings give you the ability to manually block ads from certain sites from showing up in your email feed. But it’s just as easy to toggle this setting off.
- Perhaps the most insidious Chrome privacy setting is the one for Ad Measurement. This allows websites and advertisers to share personal information about you and your browsing history to try and determine how well their ads are performing. Since this setting tracks your clicks, search bar entries, and even form fills, you definitely want to turn this one off.
Bonus tip for managing Google Chrome Ad and Privacy Settings: If any of these three toggle buttons show up gray, they’re already off; if they display as blue, that means they’re still on.
What Else Should I Do to Protect My Privacy?
Many cybersecurity experts believe that Google Chrome can compromise user data to a more alarming extent than other browsers like Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. The first two work on all types of computers and operating systems, while the latter works best on Windows machines.
If you prefer Chrome, other third-party tools are available to minimize the data that the popular web browser collects. You can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to better shield your IP address and personal information, though both of these options are best implemented by a trusted IT provider.
You can also turn on Chrome’s Enhanced Safe Browsing mode, which reviews and blocks users from navigating to suspicious sites or clicking email links that could point to illicit URLs. However, these can severely restrict online access, so we recommend working with an expert who can help to deploy this setting without impacting efficiency and productivity.
In addition, CMIT Solutions recommends the following general tips to protect private information and online data:
- Lock down your login credentials. Old passwords are like gold to hackers. Any password that’s reused across multiple accounts should be changed immediately to a long, memorable phrase that mixes letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all apps and accounts. This requires something you know (your password) and something you have (a unique code sent via text message, email, or push notification). Think of it like visiting the DMV or another government office, where you have to present two forms of identification to prove who you are. Is it convenient? Maybe not. Is it an extra layer of security that will make you feel safer? Yes. Multi-factor authentication adds another barrier in the way of hackers who might otherwise be able to gain access to multiple accounts if old passwords are stolen.
- Never share your private details. Any request for Social Security numbers, bank account details, phone numbers, or birthdates should be treated with suspicion. Legitimate businesses rarely ask for such information via email, text, or phone. Be wary of urgent requests that try and pressure you into divulging such important information.
- Review your online presence. Just like Google did with their Chrome browser, social media applications regularly update their security and privacy settings. If you receive a prompt about it, use that as an excuse to review your feed, your profile, and your direct messages for suspicious activity.
- Back up your data regularly. Want true peace of mind? Back up copies of your important information regularly. This provides a reliable point of recovery in case your privacy is breached.
- Properly dispose of old electronic devices. You can’t just throw old computers or phones in the trash: it’s environmentally unsafe, and it can cause serious cybersecurity problems. Treat old electronic media like you would old paper documents, which should be shredded and securely disposed of. Trusted IT providers can safely wipe login credentials, company files, and other identifiable info from devices—and then dispose of them for you.
At CMIT Solutions, we work all of these tips into our comprehensive package of business protection. We consider data privacy, online security, and information integrity to be incredibly important to the success of every company.
We know digital protection isn’t easy, but we work 24/7 to protect computers, devices, networks, hard drives, applications, routers, printers, and email accounts—essentially, anything that would be the target of a hacker.
If you need help navigating new Google Chrome privacy settings or enhancing the cybersecurity of your business, contact us today.