I’ve recently set up a new MacBook, which helped remind me of some of the settings I’ve configured in the Google Chrome browser, to keep it from accumulating lots of “stuff” over time: history, cookies, and so forth. The accumulation of this stuff eventually represents a loss of privacy and control that I dislike. On the other hand, browser features such as history are convenient, and I don’t want to disable them entirely. I just don’t want too much of them. This blog post is about how I’ve found a balance that I like.
Here’s a quick list of what I’ve done and why:
- Google wants me to sign in to a Google account within the browser itself. That sends my browsing history and activity to Google, which I don’t want. So I don’t sign in.
- I turn off search engine prediction services and enable the “do not track” setting.
- I visit DuckDuckGo, then open the search engine preferences and set it as my default. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you when you do searches and is a very good search engine in my opinion.
- I disable automatically adding search engines as a side effect of visiting websites. I find it disturbing that this feature exists and isn’t possible to disable from within Chrome, because it’s a form of history in a way. This requires a bit of fiddling with internals via SQLite, but isn’t otherwise hard to do. The solution is described at https://superuser.com/a/688270
- Under content settings and cookies, I configure Chrome to keep local data until I quit the browser, and block third-party cookies. This cuts down on most cookies, and a quick restart of the browser deletes the ones that do accumulate. There’s a short list of sites that I want to allow cookies from; I add these under the settings to allow specific sites to set cookies that won’t get cleared when I restart the browser.
- I disable all the features related to filling forms and saving passwords. I use 1Password for that and I trust it a lot more than a browser from Google.
I don’t install a lot of extensions. The ones that I keep active are:
- uBlock Origin, an ad blocker
- Mercury Reader, which mimics Safari’s reader view
- Feedly Subscribe Button
- History AutoDelete, which I set to clear history after 5 days
- Blank New Tab page, to remove the annoying recently-visited tiles on new tabs
There’s a few others that I install but don’t activate unless I need them:
- Awesome Screenshot, although I like Firefox’s screenshot features enough that I often use it instead of Chrome when I want to take a screenshot of a very tall page
- Evernote Web Clipper; it works okay but I rarely use it, preferring to save articles through Feedly, which does a better job
- Buffer, which is fine but I rarely use via extension, since I usually compose an email to my “email to buffer” address instead
- Super Auto Refresh, which I use rarely
With those settings and extensions installed, I find that my history, cookies, and similar don’t accumulate over time. Restarting my browser a few times a week is enough to delete the relatively small amount of tracking content that gets past uBlock Origin.