Google has been improving the privacy features of its products in recent years in an apparent attempt to better compete against Apple. The iPhone maker made waves earlier this year when its newest privacy protections rolled out via iOS 14 updates. iPhone and iPad users can see exactly what sort of data apps collect. And apps have to ask explicit permission for tracking users. Google is yet to match these iOS privacy requirements on Android, but the company is exploring similar features. While Google won’t match Apple right away, it is working on a new privacy feature for Google Chrome. Called Privacy Guide, the new feature might help users control what they share with Google.
Google still needs to track users to make money
Google is in a position where it has to offer better privacy features to customers while simultaneously tracking them. The iOS 14 example is proof of that. Google hasn’t followed Facebook’s lead when the iOS 14 privacy labels and anti-tracking features rolled out. Facebook protested vehemently, while Google chose to comply quietly. And Google is taking similar steps in other places.
Google’s iOS apps show they collect plenty of user data from customers, in line with Facebook. But unlike Facebook, Google chose not to drop a feature that would have allowed it to track users across apps and services. That’s why Google apps never ask iPhone and iPad users for tracking permission.
Chrome is one of the Google products that can help Google track users. And the company saw plenty of Chrome criticism earlier this year. That’s because Google has been testing a new user-tracking technology that should replace the infamous cookies. However, many in the industry disapprove of Google’s now-delayed FLoC initiative.
Google Chrome’s new privacy features
Google’s newest privacy feature for Android comes in the form of the Privacy Guide available inside the browser app. Found by TechDows, the feature lets you review some privacy settings for browsing the web.
The feature is not available to everyone by default, as it’s still under development. You’ll have to go to Chrome and type this chrome://flags/#privacy-review in the address bar. Select Enabled, and then you’ll find the new Privacy Review section under the Settings app in the Privacy and Security menu.
You’ll find the following toggles in the Privacy Guide section, which seem to favor tracking.
The first one is called “Make searches and browsing better,” which sounds like something everyone wants. Google explains that you’ll browse faster as content is proactively loaded based on your current webpage visit. Also, you’ll get better suggestions in the address bar. You “pay” for these features by sharing with Google the websites you visit and usage reports.
The second feature concerns your browsing history. If you want to sync your activity across devices, you’ll have to turn it on. Again, Google explains that the websites you visit are saved to your Google account. Furthermore, if Google Search is your default search engine, you’ll see better “contextually relevant suggestions.”
Google would want you to turn on both features. And if you think they’re worth sharing your data with, you should enable them. But if you care more about privacy, then you’ll want to leave them off. Still, it’s great to see Google add this privacy feature to Chrome for Android. The feature is available on Chrome for desktop. You can enable it by following the same flag above.