Google is currently in the process of testing out a new privacy feature in Chrome that will allow users to hide their IP address from third-parties.
As reported by BleepingComputer, this new feature is called IP Protection and once enabled, it will let users mask their IP address through the use of proxy servers. The reasoning behind this is that your IP address is often used for cross-site tracking like when Facebook or another social network collects your browsing data across multiple websites.
If you’re familiar with the best VPN services, they too can be used to prevent cross-site tracking as you're given a brand new IP address every time you connect to your VPN. However, some sites — like many of the best streaming services — prevent you from accessing them and their content with a VPN enabled.
With Google’s new IP Protection feature in Chrome though, you will be able to protect your privacy without running into any of the same roadblocks you would with a VPN. Likewise, this feature will be entirely free and you won’t have to pay for it like you would with a subscription to ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
IP Protection in Chrome
Although your IP address can be used to track you, it also plays a major role when it comes to routing traffic, preventing fraud and with other important network tasks.
For this reason, Google’s IP Protection feature for Chrome will route third-party traffic from specific third-party sites through proxy servers while making your IP address invisible to those domains online. It’s also worth noting that this feature will be opt-in when it begins rolling out to Chrome users.
In a post on GitHub, the Chrome team explained that IP Protection aims to improve user privacy by protecting your IP address from being used as a tracking vector though there will also be alternative mechanisms in place to help minimize any disruption to how you normally use the web.
Google is planning to roll out Chrome’s IP Protection feature in several phases. The first phase will see the search giant use a proprietary proxy server to test out the feature and it will only be available to users that are logged into Chrome with US-based IP addresses. Going forward though, Google also plans to adopt a 2-hop proxy system where your IP address goes through two separate proxy servers to protect users’ privacy further.
With this 2-hop proxy system though, the first proxy will be controlled by Google while the second one will be run by an external content delivery network (CDN). This prevents both proxy servers from seeing both a client’s IP address and their destination online.
Another interesting thing about Chrome’s IP Protection feature is that Google will assign IP addresses to these proxy connections based on where a user lives. However, instead of being an approximate location, a “coarse” location of a user will be used. For instance, I’m writing this article in Houston, Texas but with IP Protection enabled, my IP address might show that I’m in Sugar Land or Katy which are close but don’t give away my exact location.
How to protect your privacy online
Google’s IP Protection feature for Chrome will certainly help improve your privacy online but there are also some other steps you can take now to do so as well.
For starters, you want to share less information on social media and other sites and this includes skipping ‘optional’ information like when a site asks you to enter your phone number or middle name. Likewise, it may be a good idea to start using throwaway email addresses instead of your actual email address when signing up for promotions and other giveaways online.
When it comes to protecting your privacy, you also want to ensure you’re using strong, complex passwords for each of your online accounts. If you have trouble with this, you can always use one of the best password managers to create and store strong passwords for you.
To protect your smartphone and all of the sensitive information it contains, you want to limit the number of apps you have installed as even legitimate apps can go rogue when injected with malicious code. On your computer, you want to remove browser extensions you don’t frequently use as they also collect data on what you do and look at online.
While a VPN can certainly be a useful tool, they can slow down your internet speeds and make it difficult to navigate to some sites. Hopefully, Google’s IP Protection feature in Chrome can protect your privacy in a similar way without any noticeable slowdowns. We’ll have to wait and see though as it’s only entering the testing phase now. Check back for more though as we plan on using and testing this feature out for ourselves once it becomes generally available.