A full comparison of iOS privacy labels reveals Chrome is by far the worst browser when it comes to collecting personal data
Apple has finally rolled out its ‘privacy labels’ — a checklist published alongside each app that reveals how apps use your data.
If you want to find an app’s privacy labels, go to the App Store, search for the app and its listing should include the relevant labels, as shown below. If they don’t appear, the app hasn’t been updated since Apple implemented the system, but they will need to be included the next time the developer updates the app.
It’s fair to say that not all app developers are delighted with Apple’s decision to publish precisely what type of data their apps collect. And given that one category of app — web browsers — is renowned for harvesting data on users, I thought it would be interesting to compare the privacy labels being declared by all the well-known web browsers.
I’ve published a Google Sheet with the full comparison table here, but this screenshot of the table will give you some indication that the amount of data they collect varies greatly:
If you’ve managed to squint well enough, you’ll notice that browser in the middle with tons more ticks than any of its rivals: Google Chrome.
To make matters worse for Google Chrome (or, more precisely, its users) the checkboxes in the top half of the sheet are the worst privacy invaders. These are the items where the data is linked to you personally.
In the Data Linked To You category, Google Chrome has no fewer than 19 ticks. The next closest is Microsoft Edge with 7 and Apple’s own Safari with 6.
Three browsers — Brave, DuckDuckGo and Opera Touch — have no ticks at all in Data Linked To You.
What’s Google collecting?
So what’s Google collecting that the rest have decided they don’t need? The big one is browsing history. Only Chrome and Edge collect browsing history that’s personally linked to you — not coincidentally, both Google and Microsoft have web advertising networks that need to be fed.
Google’s the only one to collect your location and have it tied to your profile, as well as usage data and the rather nondescript ‘other data’. Each of the categories above has a more detailed breakdown of the data collected on each app’s listing. Google unhelpfully tells us the ‘other data’ it’s collecting is ‘other data types’.
Google also has a lot of ticks in the App Functionality setting compared to its rivals, although that’s arguably because its browser is more fully featured than the others.
For example, ‘financial info’ might stick out like a sore thumb here, but that’s presumably because Chrome lets you store credit-card details in the browser — an optional feature that you don’t have to use. Apple does something similar with Apple Pay, although it’s not directly built into the browser so Apple doesn’t declare it here.
Time to stop using Chrome?
Is there enough smoke here to suggest you should stop using Chrome? Without wishing to cop out, that rather depends on your appetite for privacy.
As the Apple privacy labels betray, Google Chrome is collecting a lot more personally identifiable data than its rivals — some of it relatively benign (e.g. browser diagnostics), some of it not (e.g. browsing history, device IDs).
If you want to browse the web without a big tech firm looking over your shoulder, Apple’s privacy labels suggest Brave, DuckDuckGo or Opera are the safest bets.
(By the way, if you’re wondering where the privacy labels for Apple’s own apps are, given they’re often not listed in the App Store, you’ll find them all here.)