It is common knowledge that websites like to track your activity through cookies, but might we be giving up a bit too much privacy when surfing the web? The answer may depend on the specific browser you are using. In a recent examination of Google Chrome
, a tech expert said he uncovered some startling differences in how Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox browsers treat user privacy
Geoffrey A. Fowler is a technology journalist for The Washington Post. It was there that he posted an opinion piece on why he feels that "Chrome has become surveillance software," and why he made the switch to Firefox. The article sits behind a paywall, but has been reprinted at a few other places (hit the link in the Via field to read it in its entirety).
Fowler claims he took a deep dive into Chrome's handling of data, and also ran various experiments to see what is really happening underneath the hood. In one instance, he found that a week's worth of web surfing uncovered 11,189 requests for tracking cookies that Chrome allowed by default, all of which Firefox
"Chrome welcomed trackers even at websites you'd think would be private," Fowler wrote. For example, he claims the Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google, which in turn told the tech giants whenever he would pull up the insurance and loan service's log-in pages. He also claims that Google sneakily signs him into his account.
It is an interesting read, and it's true that we give up a lot of privacy when surfing the web. However, many of his criticisms can be mitigated. For example, knowing that logging into Gmail
also logs you into your Google account on the Chrome browser is one way to understand (and prevent
) that type of tracking.
His point, however, is that Firefox does more to implement privacy protections by default. In speaking with Mozilla
, the developer told Fowler it does not see privacy as an "option" for users to manage with switches and dials, and that Firefox offers "enhanced tracking protection."
Fowler does ultimately concede that there are ways to "defang Chrome," but contends it is much more complicated than just running Incognito Mode, and that it is ultimately easier to simply switch browsers.