Web browsers help us navigate the web for both personal and business purposes. Browsing web sites often feels relaxing and eases boredom. But according to Washington Post columnist, Geoffrey A. Fowler, one particular browser is eating our privacy rights alive. And the worst part, we hardly realize it’s happening.
Today, privacy is a big deal. Both Google and Facebook are under fire from both the general public and government watchdog groups to better protect web surfers. But according to Fowler, Google is now acting more egregiously than ever when it comes to how they access our personal data. He specifically calls out Google’s Chrome browser as being a detriment to privacy. In fact, Fowler essentially accuses Google Chrome of spying on us.
You might be reading this post on a Google Chrome browser. In fact, the chances are high that you are given that Chrome accounts for nearly 60% of browser market share.
Fowler decided to test privacy specifications between Chrome and it’s less popular competition, Mozilla’s Firefox. Fowler now firmly believes that Google’s position as the largest advertising platform in the world makes it the worst possible browser aggregate. He believes the incentive to track users via cookies is too great to allow the company not to fall victim to greed. Firefox is known for its faster surfing experience and default privacy protections.
Fowler claims he discovered Chrome allows “Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google.” And that’s just the start, according to his expose on SiliconValley.com.
Among some of the more unsavory claims, Fowler says that Chrome is logging people into its browser without their consent. Are you logged in? If you are using Chrome, look in the upper-right of the browser and see if your Google icon/avatar is there. If so, you are probably logged in. This means Google can collect deeper data dives that leverage personal behaviors.
The situation is worse if you use an Android phone, whereas Fowler says the mobile version of Chrome tracks every location you deploy a search. In other words, when you’re searching a product at Target in Cincinnati, Google tracks this.
And now the DOJ is conducting an investigation into Google’s advertising practices. Might the Chrome browser be a talking point? I’d guess most certainly “yes.”
To some degree, cookies are a necessary evil that ties our wants/needs to the producers of those wants/needs. If you search for “moving companies” on your desktop, then suddenly see ads for moving companies in your Facebook feed, that’s cookies at work. Cookies help advertisers find the most relevant candidates for purchasing their goods.
That’s not all bad for the consumer.
Consumers prefer to see ads that are within their wheelhouse of wants and needs.
“Cookies play a role in user privacy, but a narrow focus on cookies obscures the broader privacy discussion because it’s just one way in which users can be tracked across sites,” said Ben Galbraith, Chrome’s director of product management. “This is a complex problem, and simple, blunt cookie blocking solutions force tracking into more opaque practices.”
But Chrome is completely out of hand with its heinous cookie deployment.
Additionally, cookies perform actions such as storing shopping cart items. Imagine how frustrating it would be to put a product in a shopping cart and then come back later and not be able to simply purchase it.
Ten years ago, both Firefox and Chrome battled the now ancient Internet Explorer over privacy issues. They won, clearly. But somehow, the rest of us still lost, clearly. Today, Apple’s Safari browser says it uses “intelligent tracking protection” to decipher between good and bad cookies.
Chrome allows any and all cookies to deploy. Chrome claims they are working on new consumer safeguards to better protect consumers. But Fowler’s investigation shows that Google has some ways to go before it can make any claims to improved browser privacy. Google is the leader in cookies. This is because the incentive to allow cookies is driven by the greed of its leading ad platform. Any reasonable changes to privacy security that benefits the consumer don’t benefit Google. This is why we should lower our expectations that any change is upon us.
That said, Firefox is a great option. You can download it here.
A less discussed way to avert Google’s hostile cookie environment is to perform searches on the privacy-inspired DuckDuckGo browser. The search platform recently bypassed the 30 million searches per day milestone. DDG’s consistent growth trendline is absolute evidence of people taking action over privacy concerns.
In this way, your searches aren’t logged and you shouldn’t be retargeted by advertisers.
Advertising is a part of capitalism. It helps drive our economic conditions. But advertiser platform greed, combined with consumer naivety, has created a new and dangerous online ecosystem. The less informed the people are, the more big tech is likely to sink its teeth in.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
Please visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date COVID-19 information.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases