Privacy with ungoogled-chromium

The word "privacy" regarding modern browsers is similar to the word "healthy" in regards to fruit juice. It's ambiguous, relative, and more often than not, deceiving. Just about every browser will make claims about the protection of user data, yet it seems as though there's always a caveat just beyond the surface. As a consumer, it becomes hard to know what private really means to browser companies.

For better or for worse, I've gone on a browser-searching rampage that was mainly motivated by what I can only describe as "heat-of-the-moment paranoia." In this post, I will introduce ungoogled-chromium, and why it stood out in my quest for a better browser. I will spend as little time as possible discussing other browsers, because ironically, I'm not in a position to evaluate how private they actually are. I chose ungoogled-chromium because there are things about the project that I know that I can trust, not because I've formally audited the user data protection models of every single browser and decided that ungoogled-chromium has the best one.

What is ungoogled-chromium?

Taken from their own description, ungoogled-chromium is

Google Chromium, sans integration with Google

This is an apt description, but what is Chromium? Chromium is a browser engine that's backed by Google, and in my opinion, is the highest quality browser engine out there. It powers Google Chrome and a host of other browsers, including:

To name a few. Web browser engines are extraordinarily complex tools (just look at the standards...), so there's a good reason that all these browsers use Chromium: it's fast, correct, and stable. New standards are drafted all the time too, and Chromium is always on top in terms of implementing them.

ungoogled-chromium is a fork of Chromium that gets rid of all the built-in integrations Chromium has with Google, while still aiming to feel like Google Chrome. The design document details how this works. Basically, ungoogled-chromium ensures the protection of your data by cutting off all internal communications with Google.

Why ungoogled-chromium?

I like ungoogled-chromium for three main reasons:

  1. I can be actually sure about what it's doing with my data
  2. It uses Chromium
  3. It does its job, and nothing more

To go over point one, the project is open source, actively maintained, and carefully documents exactly what it changes about the base Chromium, which is viewable in the patchset.

In regard to the second point, I just got tired of using Firefox's engine. Chromium browsers just felt smoother, and I use my browser a lot, every single day. I also didn't like the opt-out integrations with products like Pocket.

Relating to the aforementioned Pocket integration, I just want a browser that will appropriately display a webpage. Nothing more. Ultimately, a browser has a simple role for the user: render a webpage's information in the way that a server described. However complex that task might actually be, the point is that a web browser's goal is to allow the user to interact with the World Wide Web, not interact with the browser itself.

Final Thoughts

That's pretty much all I have to say about ungoogled-chromium! I've been using it for a few months now, and it's been great! However, I will mention that some (very select) parts of pages will not work. This almost never happens to me, and it's not like the whole webpage ever completely breaks. It'll never be a rendering issue or anything like that, but sometimes a request might fail because ungoogled-chromium blocked it (which might be a good thing in some scenarios). For that reason, I recommend keeping another browser installed on your machine.

As always, if you had any questions, comments, or issues with this post, feel free to submit an issue on GitHub! If you'd like to learn more about ungoogled-chromium, check out its GitHub page.