How to change Chrome’s new privacy settings for ads

If you use Google’s Chrome browser regularly, you’ve likely seen a new privacy-related screen in recent weeks.

With a combination of soothing rainbow colors and language that sounds very pro-privacy, the page announces “Enhanced ad privacy in Chrome.” You have two options: Settings and Got It.

It’s easier to hit Got It, but if you’re concerned about your data and privacy, take a moment to learn more about what’s happening and which settings you should change. Google isn’t necessarily going to default you into the settings that best protect your privacy.

This is a new way Google is trying to track what you do on the web to help advertisers target you. Google says this is better for your privacy than older tracking methods. But it’s still tracking — and people who care about their privacy may want to shut it off. It’s all part of Google’s promise to phase out the use of cookies for tracking in Chrome.

What settings do I change?

From your Chrome browser, go to Settings → Privacy and Security → Ad Privacy. You can also try this link in Chrome: chrome://settings/adPrivacy.

You’ll see three options and for maximum privacy, can turn them off, one by one. If the toggle is gray, it’s off, and if it’s blue, it’s still on.

Ad topics is a feature that uses your recent browsing history to detect what topics you’re into and show you personalized ads. If you spent the week looking at dog sites, maybe you’ll get an ad for a dog bed. Google says these topics are deleted after four weeks and if you keep it turned on, you can see the list yourself. Turn this off.

Site-suggested ads is an option that lets individual sites you’ve visited make similar conclusions about what you might be into (dog sweaters? hammocks?) and show you ads for that on other sites. If you keep this on, you can later manually block individual sites from the same screen. But it’s easier to just, yes, turn this off.

Ad measurement lets different sites and advertisers share information about you to try to figure out how well their ads are doing. Turn this off.

Google’s Chrome isn’t the only browser option you have. If you’re on a Mac you can use the Safari browser, or Firefox, which works across operating systems. You can also experiment with different settings and third-party tools to minimize the data Chrome (and other browsers) collect. If you want to go the extra mile, you could try a VPN, but make sure you choose a trustworthy provider.

This isn’t the only new setting Chrome users have seen as of late. Google recently added an ‘Enhanced Safe Browsing’ mode for Chrome and Gmail users, to warn them about suspicious sites. The setting, according to our Tech Friend newsletter writer, Shira Ovide, is worth turning on to protect yourself even though there are some trade offs. Learn more about it in her recent newsletter.

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