Google Chrome Anonymizer
Google Chrome is using a client id variable in the file Local State which can be found in the user data folder of the Chrome installation. This identification number is unique for every Chrome installation.
Privacy advocates are already warning users that the id can be used to create exact user profiles of a user's actions when the Google Chrome is used. Google has -- theoretically -- the option to look up that ID whenever necessary to link actions on the web or in the browser to a particular user.
It did not take long though before some users figured out ways to remove or alter the client id so that the collected data was useless for Google.
This article is going to highlight three different methods to edit or remove the Google Chome user id to make sure that no permanent data can be collected when the web browser is being used.
Users can check if the following methods work by viewing the contents of the Local State file when Google Chrome is running. The client id should not be visible in the file if a program has been used to remove it.
Google Chrome portable:
The portable version of Google Chrome was developed by a long term reader of Ghacks. Caschy is running his own (German) blog at Stadt Bremerhaven. The current version of portable Google Chrome can be downloaded at his blog. All that needs to be done is to unpack the contents of the download and run Chromeloader.exe.
A positive effect besides portability is the fact that every user will have the same id as long as they are starting Google Chrome using Chromeloader. The client id in the Local State file should read FA7069F6-ACF8-4E92-805E-2AEBC67F45E0.
Google Chrome Anonymizer:
Google Chrome Anonymizer is a tool that has been specifically designed to remove the client id from the Local State file so that the submitted data cannot be used to identify a user over several surfing sessions.
The software program can be started from any location on the hard drive and alters the Local State file directly before starting Google Chrome afterwards. This means that no client id is transferred to Google when using Google Chrome.
Update: Google Chrome Anonymizer is no longer available. You can use a program like Chrome Privacy Protector instead which serves the same purpose.
Manual Edit of Local State:
If you do not want to use the portable version of Google Chrome nor the Anonymizer, then you can edit the Local State file directly and remove the client id entries manually from the file. The problem with this approach is that Google is creating new client id entries if the entries have been deleted previously.
This means that you would have to edit the file manually every time before you are starting or closing Google Chrome. The Local State file can be found in Documents and Settings\Profle Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data\.
Update: Another alternative is to use browsers based on Chrome. You can use Chromium for example, the open source core of Chrome, or a browser like Iron that has been specifically designed for that purpose.Advertisement
This is a major reason why I don’t use Google services for anything sensitive. Google advertises “do no evil” and yet they love being Big Brother. Apple advertises “security” and we all know the score on that one. BP advertises environmental “greeness” and they spill the most oil. Beginning to see a pattern here …..
I’d rather say Big Uncle than Big Brother, Google is not NSA, it’s only business, smart business. Everyone knows what Google is up to, but the company communicates so well and its products are so fine that either some will disclose their privacy or others try to beat the company on its ground.
Nice summary, Martin, thanks.
On the 3rd method.
You can edit the file, then make it read only.
Run and close chrome again.
Chrome will create a “Local State.tmp” file.
Edit that file also, and make it read only.
Chrome shouldn’t make any more back ups… I think.
Thanks – “Google Chrome Anonymizer” works as described!
Does logging into other Google services, such as Google Reader, then render the anonymisr pointless?
Richard it depends. Even if you log into other Google services and use Google Search they still cannot protocol your behavior on non-Google sites over sessions.
Thank you Martin. Your article was an eye opener to me and I’ve since downloaded and installed the anonymiser. Security adn protection is one thing but being snooped on doesn’t feel right.
I used the same approach as Ash to remove the client id (manually edit, change Local State to read only, and do the same with the subsequent Local State.tmp file Google Chrome creates). My findings are consistent in that Google Chrome does not seem to be creating any further Local State files and is unable to edit the current two.
Update: Sept 12, 08
Recently released UNCHROME also removes the client id.
From the website:
“Unfortunately, each Google Chrome installation contains a unique ID that allowing identifying its user. Google doesn’t make it an easy job to remove this ID.
UnChrome helps you with this task. It replaces your unique ID with Null values so that your browser cannot be identified any longer. The functionality of Google Chrome is not influenced by this. You only need to apply UnChrome once.”
@Bill, I’ve read that on a french forum, but it was mentioned that this program written in German considered system paths in German, making the program maybe unsuccessful in other languages. Can you confirm this? Thanks
UnChrome worked on my xppro system. After using it, my Local State file reads,
I dl’ed UnChrome from the English language page, and the GUI is written in English.
Hope this helps.
@Bill, OK and thanks for confirming. Then it will work on a French system as well. I’ll pass the good news.
I think Google is going to have quite a lot of â€œclient_idâ€: â€œ0â€³. But I’ve read that this infamous ClientID was more a second-level reference, level 1 being IP. ClientID would be there only to distinguish users of a same computer …
I’m not really concerned myself since I haven’t installed Chrome, but I know several relatives who have, so I try to understand to help them if I can.
We tested Chrome’s quality of speed on our aplication (http://www.taskwriter.com) and it is faster than IE and a little bit faster than Firefox 3.0. See the graphics: http://www.taskwriter.com/blog/how-good-chrome-really-is
Would it not be better if everyone used the same Client ID?
After I ran Chrome Anonymizer I was not able to log into my gmail account. Now how do I undo Anonymizer?
does anyone know how to remove the client-id when using a Mac? I tried downloading the anonymizer, but that only seems to work with windows? help!