Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Google is now testing its “IP Protect” feature in the latest Chrome Canary release. The IP Protect setting, which is disabled by default, reduces a user’s exposure to cross-site tracking and other forms of data collection.

You may be familiar with the Privacy Sandbox, a Google-made replacement for third-party tracking cookies. Privacy Sandbox preserves the “good” parts of third-party cookies, such as the ability to run targeted ads, but it prevents advertisers from building invasive “profiles” based on individuals’ web activity.

The IP Protect feature was first proposed by Google in October 2023. It’s conceptually similar to the Privacy Sandbox. Google doesn’t want to eliminate IP addresses; it just wants to reduce the vector for cross-site tracking. So, Chrome will automatically hide your IP address from some websites. Like Google’s Safe Browsing feature, IP Protect follows a “list-based” approach, and it’s Google’s job to decide which websites are affected.

Functionally, IP Protect is just a proxy service built into the Chrome browser. When you visit a website that Google has flagged for cross-site tracking, your IP address is replaced by that of a Google proxy server. Chrome will select a proxy server that’s close to your physical location to protect the basic geolocation features on some websites.

These protections are intentionally basic. However, IP Protect is still in “Phase 0” and will improve with time. In its current state, the feature must be manually enabled and affects a small number of websites (most of which are owned by Google). The service is also limited to Google-owned proxy servers. But Google may enable IP Protection for all users at some point, and the company may use a two-hop system that filters Google’s proxy addresses through third-party CDNs.

Of course, proxy services like IP Protect have some potential for misuse. It’s hard for websites to identify invalid traffic when every user has a fudged IP address—IP Protect could encourage DDoS attacks. Google claims that it will prevent misuse by enforcing rate limits and user authentication requirements.

Download the latest Chrome Canary release if you want to test IP Protect. The feature can be toggled from the “Tracking Protection” panel in Chrome’s “Privacy and security” settings.

Source: Google via @Leopeva64

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By John P.

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