Friday, September 20, 2019

Yikes, Watch Out for Chrome Browser Data Leaks #privacy

Over the last half year or so, I've continued my search for a more secure browser. Some of the browsers that serve as excellent alternatives to Google Chrome include the following:
  • Opera: free VPN, fast ad blocker, Web 3 support and get more control of your browsing experience. I really liked Opera and have been using since version 1.0. Of course, the people who manage it have changed...this old Kim Komando article sums it up. They have a cool video.
  • Flashpeak's SlimJet Browser: With a goal to become the best web browser for Windows, SlimBrowser is designed to have superior speed and a large set of powerful features to maximize your online productivity. It starts up quickly and opens web pages right in front of you with minimum delay. It also lets you browse the Internet safely by guarding your personal information and protecting your privacy.

    and now,
  • Vivaldi: Though it lacks a VPN, I combine it with Private Internet Access VPN and it works great. It's light, fast, full-featured (gee, that's almost a contradiction). At the moment, I'm enjoying how it syncs up with my Android phone, encrypting all data
The question most people ask me is, "Why are you using another browser when Google Chrome is so amazing?" It all comes back to security. Although every Tom, Dick and Harry service whom I'm required to give my personally identifiable data (PII) and health information to has suffered a data breach, I still try to protect myself.

Leaking Private, Sensitive Data

Google Chrome has taken some steps that have made me think twice about trusting them. Read these excerpts from this Washington Post article that Efren R shared with me earlier this week:
North Carolina State University researchers recently tested how many of the 180,000 available Chrome extensions leak privacy-sensitive data. They found 3,800 such extensions — and the 10 most popular alone have more than 60 million users. 
Google recently announced it would begin requiring extensions to minimize the data they access, among other technical changes.Google tracks your searches, and even your activity in Chrome, to build out a lucrative dossier on you. 
Now, as I read this excerpt, I realize, "Hey, Miguel, the problem is extensions and add-ons you install on your browser. Wouldn't those cause problems no matter which browser you used?" Yes and no. Some of the more secure browsers work hard to NOT leak information that can be swept up.

Removing Access to Apps

Another point to keep in mind is that it's worth your time to visit Google's account permissions page (see a portion of mine above).

Remove permissions from services you don't use. Visit the website once a week and ask yourself, "Do I still use that?" Over time, you'll get familiar with what you do use and what needs to be thrown out.

Why Did This Come Up?

Someone asked me about a blog entry I wrote recommending the use of Creator Studio.
This Google Slides add-on,  Creator Studio, makes it easy to export a slide deck in G Suites. The add-on states you can: Convert Google Slides to GIF images and MP4 video files. Add background music or voice narration to your exported presentations. Export Slides as image sequences and they are uploaded to Google Drive.

Here are the permissions it uses.

The Digital Inspiration folks who make the app state in their privacy policy:
We do not sell, share, rent or exchange your information with anyone else. When we do collect data, we will use it to benefit you and to make your experiences better. We collect your information only with your consent; we only collect the minimum amount of information that is necessary to operate our software and services; we don't sell or share your information with anyone else.
One of the points they make is as follows:
Our services use the Google OAuth 2.0 protocol for authentication without requiring the user to share their login credentials with us. OAuth also allows secure access to the user’s data, as required by the add-ons, and the data resides strictly inside your Google account. We do not store any of your account data on our servers.
Many of us must use Facebook, Google Chrome for work. What are your thoughts?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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