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What is Google's Enhanced Safe Browsing?
If you’ve been using Google’s web services lately — and the odds are good, since you’re at Android Authority — you’ve probably been pestered about activating something called Enhanced Safe Browsing. But what does it do exactly, and are there downsides you need to consider before turning it on?
Enhanced Safe Browsing is an optional feature for Chrome and Gmail users that offers "proactive protection" against risky websites, downloads, and Chrome extensions. It also checks usernames and passwords against known data breaches.
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What is Google’s Enhanced Safe Browsing?
It’s a feature you turn on for your entire Google account, and scans not just URLs, extensions, and file downloads, but also “system information” and a “small sample of pages.” This might be a little alarming if you’re concerned about privacy, and indeed, Google acknowledges that the data Enhanced Safe Browsing collects is temporarily linked with your Google account before being anonymized.
Furthermore, when the ESB system scans a file download, Chrome may ask if you’re willing to upload it to Google for deeper analysis. Similarly, Google checks to see if your usernames and passwords might be associated with known security breaches.
The benefit of ESB is that you should get better warnings about malware, compromised passwords, and phishing (fake websites/URLs). The downside, apart from the privacy issue, is that you could run into hassles trying to download files or extensions from sources Google doesn’t consider “trusted.” It might also harm new extension developers, since they have comply with Google developer rules for a few months before they can get that trusted stamp.
Should I use Google Enhanced Safe Browsing?
If you’re technically savvy, there’s no particular need to enable it. You’re probably able to spot phishing attempts a mile away, and you know which extensions and download sources are (generally) trustworthy. You likely have other cybersecurity barriers in place too, such as Windows Security.
There might be some advantage to having your logins matched against data breaches, but you might also resent the step inside your privacy. Not to mention any interference with the extensions and downloads you can access — especially if you’re a developer, or you like to sail the seven seas, as it were.
The people mostly likely to need Enhanced Safe Browsing are kids, seniors, and others who are new to the internet or casual users of it. Understandably, they may not know what to look for when comes to staying safe, and there’s probably no need for them to download anything that comes from unapproved sources.
How to turn Enhanced Safe Browsing on or off
To toggle Enhanced Safe Browsing on or off:
- Log into myaccount.google.com on the web.
- Click Security in the left-hand menu.
- Scroll until you find Enhanced Safe Browsing for your Account, then click Manage Enhanced Safe Browsing.
- Toggle Enhanced Safe Browsing on or off.
Note that when you turn the feature off, the change may take as long as 24 hours to complete. Any inconveniences you’re dealing with may not go away immediately, in other words.
Yes. In fact, if anyone tries to charge you for it, that’s exactly the sort of scam Enhanced Safe Browsing is meant to protect against.
There is a privacy concern, since Google is scanning URLs, Chrome extensions, and file downloads, as well as “system information” and a “small sample of pages.” That information is temporarily linked with your Google account before being anonymized. Google also checks usernames and passwords against known security breaches.
Otherwise, Enhanced Safe Browsing does what it says on the tin — it improves security on the web.