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Google Chrome IP Protection (and Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Hiding Your IP Address)

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

IP masking features are growing in popularity as a way to limit cross-site tracking. But does that mean Google should do it?

Chrome logos

Google Chrome recently announced plans to introduce IP protection. This feature hides user IP addresses with the stated goal of limiting cross-site tracking.

IP Protection routes all user traffic through Google's own proxies, masking the true public IP address.

Why Does This Matter?

IP masking features are becoming more popular in major browsers such as Chrome.

The approach of routing all traffic through Google's systems gives them substantial control over user data. The Chrome team wants to proxy not only user traffic but also server traffic through its own systems and an external CDN.

Questions emerge whether improving user privacy is the real priority, given Google's business model centered on user data collection and monetization.

This move also limits competition, since other companies cannot access the data that Google collects through Chrome.

Chrome accounts for about 63% of web browser traffic. No other browser comes close.

It grants Google significant access to user data and control over the market.

Plus, routing all traffic through through Google provides significant visibility that could be misused.

A New Default Setting

Google plans to roll out their IP protection as an opt-in feature initially, with plans to eventually make it the default experience later.

If you didn’t know: The default settings are powerful. Most users never change their defaults.

And that's a problem.

The setting Allow Chrome sign-in is enabled out-of-the-box. This auto sign-in feature automatically signs you into Chrome when you sign into a Google website (Gmail, YouTube, Drive, etc.).

... Google has realized that this is valuable information. And they are saying, "Route your information through us. It's totally cool! We're not going to look into your information. Pinky promise!" - Mutahar

The fact that users are signed in to use IP Protection undermines the premise of privacy. This allows Google to correlate proxied traffic back to the user.

And by making IP Protection the default experience in Chrome, most users would have their internet traffic funneled through Google.

The skepticism is warranted given that Google's business model relies on consuming massive amounts of user data.

Google extends its control

While IP Protection limits some forms of tracking, it also centralizes control with Google over user data routed through their systems.

IP Protection takes away this data from other companies, but centralizes into one major player, Google.

Ultimately, Google’s business model relies on user data and lack of privacy protections.

The intent seems to be increasing revenue rather than prioritizing user privacy.

One can speculate that Google may use the proxy to undermine ad blockers (YouTube blocking ad blockers), gain more control over how people access the internet (Switch to Chrome), and exert more influence over website operations (AMP).

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Your IP Address

There are a few key reasons why hiding your IP address alone does not provide strong privacy protection.

Not effective

An IP address alone is not very effective for tracking individuals. For example, check out IP Location. It may capture your general area, but it doesn’t link directly to your house, for instance

IP addresses alone do not reveal a user's exact location, but rather provide a general location like the city and nearby area.

People share similar IP addresses

Multiple devices on the same network share an IP address. How many family members are in your home, or coworkers in your workplace? An IP address cannot reliably distinguish between individual users.

However, background information like a user's browser configuration and installed fonts can still fingerprint devices. This makes it possible to identify and track a user even without an IP address or cookies.

There are other data points

Your browser still leaks a lot of identifying information. Things like installed fonts, screen resolution, browser plugins, and operating system can all help fingerprint your specific device.

Other identifiers can still be used to track users across websites. Companies can link these various identifiers to profiles about individuals. The sites you visit and pages you engage with over time still provide clues about your interests and identity.

Browser fingerprinting

Trackers can still use these fingerprints to track you across websites. Even if your IP is different, the unique combination of attributes in your browser allows advertising networks and other trackers to recognize your device.

There are many other identifiers besides IP. Hiding one piece of the puzzle does not solve the larger tracking problem.

Dynamic IP addresses

IP addresses are often dynamic, meaning they can change frequently. This makes it difficult to track a specific individual using only their IP address over time.

Most users have dynamic IPs that change regularly.

One among many

While IP addresses can be used for tracking, they are not very effective for long-term tracking.

Your IP address is just one part of how you're identified online. Trackers can still recognize your unique browser configuration through fingerprinting techniques.

And no, changing a few settings in your browser does not make you more fingerprintable.

A reasonable solution for most consumers is to switch to browsers that priortize privacy. Browsers like Firefox and Brave do, but Chrome does not.

How to Change My IP Address

YouTubers Mental Outlaw and SomeOrdinaryGamers were quick to point out that if you want to change your IP address, just unplug your router from the wall 🙃

Once everything is back up, check your IP again. And voilà! A different IP address.

Most routers also have a reset button on them.

For me, my router’s web configuration allows me to schedule a restart every day. But this is probably overkill for my use case.

I originally scheduled the reboot in the odd hours of the morning to clear the router cache, but it’s nice to know this changes my IP address as well.

In Closing

Hiding your IP address alone does not significantly help with privacy protection.

There are several reasons why you may not need a VPN, or IP proxy services like Google’s IP Protection.

When it comes to hiding your IP address, a more comprehensive, decentralized approach is needed to improve online privacy.

There are simple steps to improve your privacy online. You can begin today by using a service like NextDNS, configured with my setup guide, and an ad blocker like uBlock Origin.

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Welcome to a fresh prospective on the world of tech. Real human reviews plus Real information equals Real value Looking forward to the journey. Hal (yokoffing)


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