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Privacy Setting on Your Browsers – #RohitRecommends

Google Chrome

I personally believe using Google Chrome is actually detrimental to the privacy of your data. If you insist on using Google Chrome, there are several additional tweaks that you must perform in Google Chrome settings. That’s why, even in the book “My Data, My Privacy, My Choice”, I’ve placed this list of tweaks to Google Chrome settings under the INTERMEDIATE level of recommendations.

For Google Chrome users, go to Menu | Settings or chrome:\\settings and follow all of the recommendations listed below:

  1. Opt-out of telemetry and collection of usage data: In the section titled Sync and Google Services. In the options that are displayed, toggle the following settings off:
    1. Help Improve Chrome Security
    1. Help improve Chrome’s features and performance

You may toggle other settings on or off, depending on the level of privacy desired. I recommend leaving Safe Browsing as it prevents you from accessing known malicious sites on the web.

  • Turn off syncing and personalization: In the section titled Sync and Google Services, toggle the setting titled Do searches and browsing better to OFF. Next, scroll down, open the Advanced Settings, and toggle the Allow Chrome sign-in setting to OFF.
  • Change your default search engines: In the section titled Search Engine and use the dropdown box to select a different search engine — I recommend choosing DuckDuckGo instead of Google. If you wish to add a different search engine, simply visit the site or search the internet to find instructions on how to add it.
  • Search suggestions: In the section titled Sync and Google Services, toggle the setting titled Autocomplete searches and URLs to OFF.
  • Cookies, tracking, and content blocking: Scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced to open/unhide the advanced settings. In the section titled Privacy and Security scroll down to Site Settings and click to open it. Under the section titled Permissions, click on Cookies. Among the options displayed underneath, toggle the following settings ON:
    • Keep local data only until you quit your browser
    • Block third-party cookies

Under ideal circumstances, I’d recommend that you toggle the setting titled Allow sites to save and read cookie data (recommended) to the OFF position but preventing cookies will severely impact your browsing – especially if you need to stay logged in to websites – so I don’t recommend turning it off.

  • Permissions and site-settings: Scroll down and click on Advanced to reveal the hidden settings. In the section titled Privacy and Security, scroll down and open Site Settings. Under the section titled Permissions, you’ll find a bunch of options relating to access permissions for the features outlined in the paragraph above. I also recommend toggling all the settings (other than Cookies and JavaScript) to either Ask before accessing or Blocked.
  • Form autofill: Scroll down to the section titled Autofill and click to open it. You’ll find three sections — Passwords, Payment methods, Addresses.
    • In the Passwords section, and toggle both the Offer to save passwords and the Auto -Sign-in settings to the OFF position. Evaluate and delete any passwords that have already been saved — both locally and in your Google account.
    • Open the Payment methods section and toggle the Save and fill payment methods setting to the OFF position. Evaluate and delete any payment methods that have already been saved — both locally and in your Google account.
    • Open the Addresses and more section and toggle the Save and fill addresses setting to the OFF position. Evaluate and delete any addresses that have already been saved.

Most of these settings are also applicable to browsers that are actually based on the Chromium codebase. So, if you are a Brave, Epic, or Ungoogled Chromium user, you’ll find that a lot of the settings in these browsers are quite similar (often word-for-word) to the ones described in the above paragraphs.

Mozilla Firefox:

First, ensure that your Firefox installation is absolutely up-to-date by going to Menu | Help | About Firefox. A small window will pop-up telling you whether Firefox needs to be updated. If it does, download and install the update and then restart the browser for the changes to take effect.

Once you have updated your Firefox browser to the latest version, go to Menu | Options or type about:preferences in the address bar of your Firefox window and press Enter. Then, one-by-one, follow all of the recommendations listed below:

  1. Opt-out of telemetry and collection of usage data: Click Privacy & Security in the sidebar, scroll down to the section titled Firefox Data Collection and Use and uncheck the checkboxes titled:
    1. Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla.
    1. Allow Firefox to send backlogged crash reports on your behalf.
  2. Turn off syncing and personalization: Click Sync in the sidebar and check if you are logged in to your Mozilla account. While it is extremely tempting to keep everything synced to the cloud, I recommend that you only sync the extensions and settings, if you absolutely must.
  3. Change your default search engines: Click Search in the sidebar and in the dropdown available under Default Search Engine, switch to a more privacy-aware alternative such as DuckDuckGo instead of Google. Click the link titled Find more search engines under the One-Click Search Engines section to search for and add additional search engines.
  4. Search suggestions: Disable the search-as-you-type (or search suggestions) feature: by unchecking the checkbox next to Provide search suggestions.
  5. Cookies, tracking, and content blocking: Click Privacy & Security in the sidebar and under Enhanced Tracking Protection, choose Strict for better protection of your browsing data. I also recommend choosing Always under the Do Not Track setting.
  6. Permissions and site-settings: Click Privacy & Security in the sidebar, and, under the section titled Permissions:
    1. One-by-one, click on each of the Settings buttons next to Location, Camera, Microphone, and Notifications and select the checkbox titled Block new requests to access [XYZ], where [XYZ] refers to the feature whose settings are being looked at.
    1. Click on the Settings button next to Autoplay and change the Default for all websites to Block Audio and Video in the dropdown.
    1. Next, select the checkboxes next to Block pop-up windows and Warn you when websites try to install add-ons.

Once you’ve completed the recommended actions above, go through the list again and see if there is anything you (or I) may have missed. If you find something not covered in this set of recommended actions, send me a quick tweet @rohit11 and I’ll update this article as soon as I can.

Safari, by Apple

Due to Apple’s strong stance on the privacy of user data, Safari does not send any telemetry data back to Apple servers, or provide any syncing and/or personalization options. However, there are a few other settings in your Safari installation that you might want to tweak.

Assuming you are using Safari on macOS, go to Safari | Preferences and follow all of the recommendations listed below:

  1. Default search engines: Choose the Search tab and in the dropdown next to Search Engine, choose a more privacy-aware search engine, such as DuckDuckGo.
  2. Search suggestions: In the Search tab, under the Search Engine dropdown, uncheck the box that says Include search engine suggestions.
  3. Privacy and cookies: In the Privacy tab, check both the checkboxes, under Website tracking, that is,
    1. Prevent cross-site tracking
    1. Ask websites not to track me
  4. Websites: In the Websites tab, you’ll find a bunch of options in the sidebar, such as Reader, Content Blockers, Auto-Play, Camera, Microphone, Location, Notifications, and many more. These options correspond to how Safari behaves when it encounters one of these elements on a website visited by you. The default behaviour for each of these options can be changed using the corresponding dropdown on the right-hand side.
  5. Autofill: In the Autofill tab, uncheck all four options, that is,
    1. Using information from my contacts
    1. Usernames and passwords
    1. Credit cards
    1. Other forms

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