More privacy in the Chrome web browser

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Incognito or Not

Chrome also provides a so-called incognito mode, which you can access via Ctrl+Shift+N in the browser. In this mode, the browser does not store history, cookies, or search history. To enable incognito mode right away when starting Chrome, add the option -incognito when you launch it from the command line:

$ google-chrome -incognito

You can make this change permanent by renaming the original google-chrome executable:

$ sudo mv /opt/google/chrome/google-chrome \

then creating a new google-chrome script in the /opt/google/chrome directory:

$ sudo echo "/opt/google/chrome/google-chrome-real -incognito" \
  > /opt/google/chrome/google-chrome

and then making it executable:

$ sudo chmod a+x /opt/google/chrome/google-chrome

However, keep in mind that incognito mode deactivates all installed add-ons, including those related to privacy. To reactivate the add-ons, go into Tools | Extensions and enable the Allow in incognito option for each one individually (Figure 6).

Figure 6: In incognito mode, Chrome deactivates all add-ons for security reasons. You can reactivate each one separately in the extension options.

However, there are limits even to these apps. Some of the websites use Canvas fingerprinting [6], where a JavaScript snippet generates an image and stores its hash on the server (see the "Canvas" box for more information). Because the image is unique to each computer, the hash creates something like a unique identification fingerprint.


Canvas is an HTML5 element that dynamically creates bitmap images, usually through JavaScript. Originally developed by Apple and used in Webkit, it was later standardized by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). All major browsers now support the element.


As interesting as technical innovations such as the sandbox, multiprocessor architecture, or the Blink rendering engine might be, Chrome can be catastrophic from a data privacy perspective. The software uses every trick in the book to learn things about you, taking every opportunity to send the data to Google or some other interested party.

Omnibox can also be a hindrance in daily practice. On the one hand, it inundates users when entering a URL or an entry with often useless "suggestions" and, on the other hand, relies on only one search engine, namely Google, as default.

Speed and modern interfaces are also dynamic factors. Firefox has not only swapped its older stale interface with a newer one in its current version, but also raised its speed to acceptable levels.

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