How To Get Early Access To Google Chrome’s New Safety And Design Updates

How To Get Early Access To Google Chrome’s New Safety And Design Updates
Illustration: Google

Google announced a number of new features, tweaks, and additions to Chrome yesterday. In typical Google fashion, some are available for you to play with right now and some you’ll have to wait on. We’ve done the grunt work, and put together a comprehensive guide to unlocking every feature Google talked about yesterday (and what they are).

Before we begin, make sure you’re using the latest, stable version of Google Chrome, which should be version 83.0.4103.61 as of this writing. To check, or to update your browser, click on the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner and click on Help > About Google Chrome.

Screenshot: David Murphy

To make this easy, we’ll go through Google’s announcement about Chrome’s new features and highlight what you have to do to enable each one (if anything). We’ve split the features up into sections:

Privacy, site settings and cookies

Google: “It’s easier to manage cookies. You can choose if and how cookies are used by websites you visit, with options to block third-party cookies in regular or Incognito mode, and to block all cookies on some or all websites.”

You have two options for this one: You can install Chrome Canary, which comes with this new Cookies section in your browser’s settings already enabled, or you can enable it yourself. Copy and paste this into the address bar of your regular or Beta version of Chrome: chrome://flags/#privacy-settings-redesign

Enable the flag, and you’ll see the revamped Cookies section in Chrome’s Settings > Privacy and Security (on the sidebar) > Cookies and other site data (in the main Settings window).

Screenshot: David Murphy

I recommend enabling “Block third-party cookies,” at minimum, which follows the security-and-privacy footsteps of other major browser developers.

Google: In Site Settings, we’ve reorganized the controls into two distinct sections to make it easier to find the most sensitive website permissions: access to your location, camera or microphone, and notifications. A new section also highlights the most recent permissions activity.

Enable the aforementioned flag, and this new redesign can be found in Settings > Privacy and security > Site Settings. Here’s what it looks like!

Screenshot: David Murphy

Google: At the top of Chrome settings, you’ll see “You and Google” (previously “People”), where you can find sync controls. These controls put you in charge of what data is shared with Google to store in your Google Account and made available across all your devices.

This already exists in the stable version of Chrome. You can’t miss it:

Screenshot: David Murphy

Google: Because many people regularly delete their browsing history, we’ve moved that control, “Clear browsing data”, to the top of the Privacy & Security section.

You can get this right now! It’s impossible to miss:

Screenshot: David Murphy

Chrome’s new Safety Check feature

Google is dropping a brand-new “Safety Check” option into Chrome’s settings that can quickly scan your browser for all kinds of issues. As Google writes:

  • The new tool will tell you if the passwords you’ve asked Chrome to remember have been compromised, and if so, how to fix them.

  • It will flag if Safe Browsing, Google’s technology to warn before you visit a dangerous site or download a harmful app or extension, is turned off.

  • The safety check tool also has a new additional way to quickly see if your version of Chrome is up to date, i.e. if it’s updated with the latest security protections.

  • If malicious extensions are installed, it will tell you how and where to remove them.

To enable it you’ll need to make sure you’ve turned on that “Privacy Settings Redesign” flag we mentioned earlier. As a reminder, you’ll need to copy and paste this into the address bar of your regular or Beta version of Chrome, and then enable the flag: chrome://flags/#privacy-settings-redesign

From there, pull up Chrome’s settings, and you’ll see the Safety Check option right on the left-hand sidebar. Click it, and then click the “Check Now” blue button under the Safety check section to get started.

Screenshot: David Murphy

This isn’t the kind of thing you’ll have to run very often—and its usefulness is minimized a bit if you’re already using a solid password manager instead of Chrome—but it’s still a tool you’ll definitely want to tell your friends and family about, especially those who don’t know anything about what they’re doing with computers, technology or security. It could help them keep their Chrome browsers locked-down and ever-so-slightly safer.


Blocking third-party cookies in Incognito mode

Chrome is going to start blocking third-party cookies by default when you’re using Incognito mode. If you’d rather turn this on right now, pull up the chrome://flags/#improved-cookie-controls flag and flip it on.

When you do, you’ll find this new option in your settings, assuming you’ve also enabled the revamped Cookies section we talked about earlier:

Screenshot: David Murphy

You’ll also see a new icon at the right of your address bar in Incognito mode. Click the “Site not working” link if you’re having issues, and you’ll be allowed to enable third-party cookies for specific sites to fix any issues you’re having with your experience.

Screenshot: David Murphy

Combine your many Chrome extensions into one launcher

Google claims that its new “puzzle icon” treatment for browser extensions is arriving today. It’s not present in my latest stable version of Chrome, but it’s one of the most convenient little additions I’ve been using for months. Here’s how it works. Instead of having a whole crap-ton of extensions eating up your address bar, like this:

Screenshot: David Murphy

You can combine them all into a single icon by enabling the #extensions-toolbar-menu flag, which then makes your browser look like this:

Screenshot: David Murphy

Those few stragglers? You can now click that puzzle icon and pin your most-used extensions to your browser. Other extensions you don’t use as frequently, or don’t need to see all the time—enabled or otherwise—live beneath the menu. They’ll sit there in their little extension cave, ready for you to access their settings at a moment’s notice without cluttering up your Chrome experience (any more than your billion tabs are).

Screenshot: David Murphy

Enhanced Safe Browsing and Secure DNS

Google is rolling out a new “Enhanced Safe Browsing” mode for Chrome that “proactively checks whether pages and downloads are dangerous by sending information about them to Google Safe Browsing.” You’ll send your data to Google and Google will compare your websites, downloads and extensions against an even more up-to-date of a list of malware and other crap. This data is linked to your account for a brief period of time, but it’s ultimately anonymised. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the privacy/security trade-off is worth it.

I haven’t found a flag that enables this setting yet, but it is present in Chrome Canary as a standard option if you want to try it out right now.

Screenshot: David Murphy

As for DNS-over-HTTPS, or Secure DNS, you shouldn’t have to set up anything once the feature rolls out. As Google writes:

“By default, Chrome will automatically upgrade you to DNS-over-HTTPS if your current service provider supports it. You can also configure a different secure DNS provider in the Advanced security section, or disable the feature altogether.”

Visit this Chrome flag to enable Secure DNS right now:chrome://flags/#dns-over-https

After that, make sure you’ve adjusted your operating system’s network settings. Instead of automatically acquiring a DNS from your ISP, you’ll want to force it to use one of the providers from Chrome’s mapping table, or this flag won’t do much of anything. As always, you can test your Secure DNS setup using Cloudflare’s handy page.

Eventually, an easier-to-manage setting should live in the Security section of Chrome’s “Privacy and Security,” er, section.

Screenshot: Google

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