Google Chrome users have been faced with several questionable privacy decisions over the course of 2023, making it no surprise that many are looking for an alternative browser. Here are two things that might push you to quit Chrome and switch to a privacy-preserving alternative such as Firefox.
Manifest V3 Changes That Break Some Ad Blockers In Chrome
Google’s planned changes to the webRequest API, dubbed Manifest V3, are starting to roll out to Chrome users in June 2024. But ad extension developers say the plans will affect the functionality of their extensions in the browser.
Google Chrome’s Manifest V3 changes have been a long time coming, and technically that gives ad blocker extension developers a while to adapt their solutions. In December 2022, Google paused the planned deprecation of Manifest V2 to “address developer feedback and deliver better solutions to migration issues.”
The software giant says it has now made a number of changes to Manifest V3 to close these gaps. “With these changes in place, we’ve seen support for Manifest V3 increase significantly among the extension developer community,” Google wrote in a blog.
“Specifically, we are encouraged by our ongoing dialogue with the developers of content blocking extensions, who initially felt Manifest V3 could impact their ability to provide users with the features they’ve come to expect.”
The Google Chrome changes were approved by ad blockers such as AdGuard—which even provided Google with a quote. However, other ad blockers such as uBlock Origin say it will heavily impact the functionality of their extensions.
There’s some confusion around which ad blockers may or may not work after Manifest V3 comes into play, says Sean Wright, head of application security at Featurespace. “Ultimately, we need to realise that Google’s main stream of revenue is through advertising, so it’s in their best interests to ensure that ad blockers are difficult to work,” he says.
Wright advises switching to a privacy-focused Browser such as Brave, Firefox, or Safari. “If you are more technical, you can look to block adverts at the network layer using something such as PiHole or NextDNS,” he adds.
Google is also targeting ad blockers on YouTube, forcing users to turn off their extensions or pay for Premium.
Google Topics Is Opt Out In The U.S.
In September, Google started alerting Chrome users to a new method of ad tracking called Topics, the browser maker’s replacement for third-party cookies. Part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, Topics uses a person’s browsing history to assign topics to them. Websites can then ask Chrome via the Topics API what your interests are so you can be served ads.
But U.S. users had to opt out of Topics rather than into the new way of tracking people across the web. This is in contrast to the U.K. and Europe, where users have the choice to opt into data collection via regulation. Surely, it’s only fair.
It’s widely agreed that Topics is better than third-party cookies. But Chrome competitor Brave wrote last year that FLoC, Privacy Sandbox and the Topics API do not improve privacy. “Rather, they’re proposals to make the least private browser slightly less bad,” Peter Snyder, senior director of privacy, wrote in a blog.
“The enormous amount of fingerprinting surface already in Chrome…. mean that most Chrome users are already fingerprintable, Topics API or otherwise,” he added.
You can turn off the new ad tracking features (i.e. Topics) in your Chrome Settings > Privacy and Security > Ads Privacy and Disable Ad Topics, Site Suggested Ads and Ad Measurement.
Should you quit Google Chrome?
There are plenty of reasons to quit Chrome, but the move might not be right for you. If you use Chrome for a critical business application, for example, it can be hard to move away. Yet there are alternatives based on Chromium, the same browser engine as Chrome, including Brave. There’s also Firefox of course—and Safari if you are an Apple user.