Google Chrome works like a charm on the iPhone. It is solid in terms of performance. It sports a superb user interface tailor-made for one-hand navigation. It synchronizes data between devices seamlessly. Yet Google’s name often persists serious privacy issues.
Compared to other browsers, Chrome also doesn’t have any major privacy-related features. You will surely miss Safari’s ability to use content blockers. Where the private browsing mode still active in Brave.
But do not worry. You can still protect your privacy while using Chrome at least to some extent. Let’s see how.
1. Clear browsing data
Chrome stores tiny information called cookies on your iPhone. Cookies help websites remember your login sessions and preferences so you don’t have to start all over again every time you revisit them.
But they are also used for other purposes. Some cookies can follow you on all sites and track what you do. Websites store cookies to target you with advertisements, but you never know what else the data might be used for.
Chrome also saves your browsing history, which is useful if you want to know which sites you’ve visited in the past. But your privacy is at risk if someone else has access to your device.
This is where the erasure of your browsing data comes in. If the browser bombards you with personalized ads, or if you have visited websites that you prefer not to see others, do the following.
Go to Chrome Settings> Privacy> Clear browsing data. Now just select the browsing history or cookies, site data or both. You can also select Cached images and files if you want to clear the browser cache, which is useful for troubleshooting purposes.
Make sure the time range is set to an appropriate period – Last hour, Last 24 hours, All time, etc.
Warning: Do not select saved passwords and auto-complete data unless you really want to delete these types of data.
Finally, tap Clear browsing data. This will erase the navigation data that falls within the selected time frame.
2. Use incognito mode
If you hate the idea of manually deleting your browsing data, use Chrome’s incognito mode instead. It’s similar to Private Safari Mode; it deletes cookies and your history once you have finished browsing.
To start using incognito mode, open the Chrome menu and tap New incognito tab. Or you can switch to incognito mode via the Chrome tab selector. You can then start surfing privately.
Warning: Websites can still recognize you based on your IP address. Other tracking methods, such as browser fingerprint, also means that you are not completely anonymous in Incognito.
Private browsing mode is not suitable for normal browsing, because you must connect to the sites – and modify the preferences – each time you start a new session. You should only switch to it when you want to surf in private.
3. Manage synchronization settings
Chrome Sync is an amazing feature that allows you to continue browsing the web on any platform that supports Chrome.
But it also leads to a fair share of privacy issues. For example, would you like your autocomplete data, passwords, or open tabs to be available on other devices? What if someone else has access to it?
That’s why you need to manage your Chrome sync settings. It is highly customizable, so take advantage of it.
Start by visiting Chrome Settings> Sync and Google Services> Manage Sync. Turn off the switch next to Synchronize All. Turn off the switches next to the types of data you don’t want to sync to or from your iPhone.
It’s also a great idea to secure Chrome Sync with a sync password. This way your data is safe even if your Google account is compromised.
4. Change the search engine
Google is the unrivaled king of search engines. Again, it’s Google. And Google doesn’t respect your privacy. Fortunately, there are other search engines better suited for private browsing such as DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Home Page.
However, switching search engines to something other than Yahoo or Bing can be confusing. Here is a full presentation of to change the default search engine in Chrome for iOS.
5. Disable search suggestions
Chrome generates autocomplete suggestions every time you search for something. This is a useful feature, but it also poses a risk to privacy.
Your keystrokes are transmitted in real time to the default search engine to generate these suggestions. And it’s annoying. Your data can be used to identify you based on your typing patterns.
Fortunately, you can turn this feature off. Go to Chrome Settings> Sync and Google Services. Then turn off the switch next to Automatic searches and URLs.
This will prevent Chrome from transmitting data until you press Go while performing searches.
6. Disable location services
Many websites, including Google, like to know your exact location. It’s a privacy nightmare. Unless a site uses this data wisely and offers you a personalized experience, it is best to prevent your iPhone from sending your location data at any time.
Go to iPhone Settings> Chrome> Location Services. Select Ask next time if you want to manually provide or deny access when a site asks for your location information.
Otherwise, select Never if you want to completely stop Chrome’s access to your iPhone’s location services.
7. Delete account data
Your Google Account keeps a record of the activity of all Google apps and services you use. This includes details of the sites you have visited while using Chrome.
Why is Google doing this? To provide better autocomplete suggestions, make relevant recommendations in Google apps, serve targeted ads, and more.
It’s a little scary. And no, clearing your browsing history in Chrome will not delete this data.
If you want to remove the saved browsing activity from your Google account, you need to go to Chrome Settings> Sync and Google Services> Manage your Google Account> Manage your data and personalization> Web activity and app.
You can then filter and delete your navigation data using the various controls found in the Web & App Activity panel. Here is a full presentation of delete data from your Google account.
8. Disable ads
Chrome doesn’t support content blockers, so you don’t have the luxury of blocking trackers that infringe on privacy. You can, however, block ads with a workaround that involves modifying the DNS servers for your Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
This should also help block at least some of the trackers. It is a long process; the following guide should guide you.
9. Disable the suggested sites widget
Chrome offers two nifty home screen widgets – Quick Actions and Suggested Sites. The first gives you easy shortcuts to common actions. But the second brings up sites according to your browsing activity. This is not ideal when you have your list of widgets around others. Here’s how to turn it off.
Switch to Today view (leftmost home screen), then tap Edit under the list of active widgets.
Finally, tap the Remove icon next to Chrome – Suggested Sites and tap Remove to confirm.
10. Disable lock screen suggestions
Rarely, Siri can make suggestions based on how you use Chrome on the lock screen. This means that anyone else can see these suggestions simply by wake up your iPhone.
If you don’t want to leave anything to chance, here’s how to prevent Siri from making Chrome-based suggestions.
Go to iPhone Settings> Chrome> Siri and Search. Turn off the switch next to Show Siri Suggestions.
Chrome for iOS is not a private web browser. Not far. But with the tips above, you can at least do something about it. Yes – not all are ideal. Just choose the ones that work best for you, and they’ll do some good for your privacy. Chrome looks amazing on iPhone, and it would be a shame to abandon it without at least trying.
Want better privacy when browsing the iPhone? Here are five great browsers that can help.
Last updated on April 10, 2020