Question Can You Have Privacy On A Chromebook?

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
My wife is interested in getting a Chromebook. Knowing my distrust of all things Google, she asked me if I could put Linux on it. I can, but it's pretty complicated. An easier route would be to just use it as intended, with Chrome OS and browser. She mainly wants it for browsing and email anyway. So my question is, how can I configure it in order to frustrate Google's constant monitoring and monetizing? I have no experience with this OS so does anyone have any experience with this?

Thanks, Mike
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
My question is why go with a Chromebook in the first place if your wife is willing to use Linux and you are capable of installing it?

There are so many PCs available, and at low cost, that are the functional equivalents tech-spec-wise of a Chromebook that you can install the Linux distro of your choice on with ease.

I cannot speak with any depth about Chrome OS, but given Google's well-known and well-deserved reputation as a data collecting and mining behemoth there is no reason to believe that would not extend to Chrome OS, too. It certainly extends to the Google apps, most notably the Chrome browser, that come bundled with Chrome OS.
 
Reactions: digitalgriffin

AllanGH

Estimable
Mar 10, 2019
2,551
531
3,240
74
Just grab a reasonably-outfitted Toshiba and install a decent Debian variant that she is comfortable with. Avoid the public email services (Gmail, YahooMail, Whatever Microsoft has going, et al), or use end-to-end GnuPGP on all emails, and eshew Chrome and Firefox....if privacy is truly a concern, that is.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
My question is why go with a Chromebook in the first place if your wife is willing to use Linux and you are capable of installing it?

There are so many PCs available, and at low cost, that are the functional equivalents tech-spec-wise of a Chromebook that you can install the Linux distro of your choice on with ease.

I cannot speak with any depth about Chrome OS, but given Google's well-known and well-deserved reputation as a data collecting and mining behemoth there is no reason to believe that would not extend to Chrome OS, too. It certainly extends to the Google apps, most notably the Chrome browser, that come bundled with Chrome OS.
Good advice, I have considered that. It certainly would be easier to install Linux. My current favorite is Zorin 15. I already have it on her Dell Inspiron as a dual boot with Windows 7. but the hard drive is running hot and the thing is a bit of a beast, not exactly easy to lug around (17" screen). I think she doesn't like dual-booting a whole lot, and wants one machine for web work (Linux) and one for spreadsheets (Windows). Also to keep her numerous pictures on. Of course, it will mean wiping out Windows 10...but I think I could manage it.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
Just grab a reasonably-outfitted Toshiba and install a decent Debian variant that she is comfortable with. Avoid the public email services (Gmail, YahooMail, Whatever Microsoft has going, et al), or use end-to-end GnuPGP on all emails, and eshew Chrome and Firefox....if privacy is truly a concern, that is.
Hmm, I checked out some Toshibas on your advice, and you're right, there are some good units. 15" is probably as small as she wants to go on screen size, and there are some which are competitive with Chromebooks. Much easier for me; putting Linux on a Chromebook is no walk in the park, unless you're using Crouton, but that would be too complicated for her. Replacing Chrome with Linux is dicey. Gallium looks like the best Linux for that, but I don't think she would like it as much as Zorin.
 

AllanGH

Estimable
Mar 10, 2019
2,551
531
3,240
74
As to her desire to do her spreadsheets on windows, why would she not opt to use LibreOffice Calc on Linux, for her spreadsheet needs?

As a matter of fact, she can import microsoft spreadsheets directly into Calc and just keep going without any dependence upon MSO.

Since StarOffice was an influence in the office productivity market, we have never used MSO, and spreadsheets abound in this house....just sayin'.
 
Keep in mind, you can still access googles apps from the web browser within Linux, but it would be about as secure as a chromebook.

I second the idea to buy a cheap laptop and install Linux. Windows telemetry is a little fishy and google does a lot of data collection.

I prefer lubuntu for older systems and popOS for newer ones.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
As to her desire to do her spreadsheets on windows, why would she not opt to use LibreOffice Calc on Linux, for her spreadsheet needs?

As a matter of fact, she can import microsoft spreadsheets directly into Calc and just keep going without any dependence upon MSO.

Since StarOffice was an influence in the office productivity market, we have never used MSO, and spreadsheets abound in this house....just sayin'.
I have tried to show her Libre Calc and opened her documents in it. I also installed Free Office and even upgraded to paid version. That is much nicer than Libre, but so far she has not made the transition. Maybe in time....
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
Based on what's been offered so far, I have to ask: Why not just use a Windows 10 machine?

Contrary to popular misinformation you can limit very severely the information that gets sent to Microsoft just by setting telemetry to basic and taking the time to go through all the privacy settings (which really doesn't take long, particularly if you're disabling most everything or leaving it enabled, but for select applications).

No snark intended, at all, but you are, to use a popular phrase in Shenandoah Valley Farming circles, "going around Jake's barn," to get to something 5 paces away.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
Keep in mind, you can still access googles apps from the web browser within Linux, but it would be about as secure as a chromebook.

I second the idea to buy a cheap laptop and install Linux. Windows telemetry is a little fishy and google does a lot of data collection.

I prefer lubuntu for older systems and popOS for newer ones.
Our plan is to keep her Windows 7 offline after EOL in January. I have been using linux myself for several years now and have stopped updating my W7 drive, it is what it is. I've been preparing for W7 EOL for quite awhile. I won't use W10. I will still need W7 on my music rig, which I already keep offline by default. I may install a virtual W7 on a linux install so I can safely download music-related stuff. So we are well on the way to life after W7. She plans to use the W7 computer more like a desktop, to sort through her enormous collection of pictures, word docs, spreadsheets etc. I think eventually she will take to Linux and Free Office. Her current computer may need a hard drive soon anyway. I've already replaced it once, plus her keyboard. It's about 7-8 years old but I've kept it going.
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
[With regard to statement, "I won't use Windows 10"]

Why not? You can skin windows 10 to look like 7 on the surface?
First, I want to state unequivocally that anyone has the right to whatever choice they wish to make with regard to the OS(es) they'll use.

The above being said, I also always have to ask, "Why not?"

People have been using Windows for decades now. Telemetry has been retrofitted into Windows 7 and already existed in Windows 8, and has existed in most modern OSes, including many Linux distros, for years now.

Telemetry is what allows OS makers to stop the occasional "bad fix"/"bad update" in its tracks, before it lands on millions of machines, which is a benefit worth its weight in gold.

There are almost certainly many Linux distros that are far more "privacy centric" than Windows 10, Chrome OS, and other Linux distros even are. But the idea that basic telemetry is privacy violating betrays a complete misunderstanding of what telemetry is and what it does.

There are numerous articles out there (including directly from the "horse's mouth") about the various diagnostic data [AKA telemetry] levels and what each of those levels include. Microsoft even created a Diagnostic Data Viewer anyone can install to see exactly what's being sent to them.

Microsoft Windows 10 is being used in millions of computers in the health care industry, and if it were somehow a data siphon for all kinds of personal data being processed and stored on machines it would not be HIPAA compliant, but it is.
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
And even looking at the URLs for those articles it's obvious that they were written with the "Windows 10 is spying!!" spin that was so grossly overblown in the early days of Windows 10.

Even I don't like what can (not necessarily does, but definitely can) get scooped up if the default of Full telemetry is left as is, but basic telemetry includes nothing I can rationally consider personal in any meaningful sense of the term.

Telemetry is now being built in to virtually any OS out there, and most of it has nothing to do with data mining on the user but data mining on how the OS itself is behaving "in the wild."
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
110,818
1,368
152,940
18,390
And even looking at the URLs for those articles it's obvious that they were written with the "Windows 10 is spying!!" spin that was so grossly overblown in the early days of Windows 10.

Even I don't like what can (not necessarily does, but definitely can) get scooped up if the default of Full telemetry is left as is, but basic telemetry includes nothing I can rationally consider personal in any meaningful sense of the term.

Telemetry is now being built in to virtually any OS out there, and most of it has nothing to do with data mining on the user but data mining on how the OS itself is behaving "in the wild."
Right.
Mid 2015, when it was new and people were still freaking out about the terms of the Tech Preview and Insider program.

They do, however, state the data is anonymized, and that the same functionality is in the previous OS's as well.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
That may be true with respect to the telemetry, but I resent the way Microsoft forcefully updated peoples computers from W7 to W10, without their knowledge or permission. and then forcefully updates and upgrades W10 the same way. Yes, you can adjust settings to stop this. Yes, you can make it look and act like W7. But the point is, why should you have to? Why use an operating system that makes you jump through hoops like that?

I loved W7, and would have paid for the next decent Windows that Microsoft made. If they had made one. Instead they made one that reduces your control over your own computer. They actually lost me with Windows 8. They had to do a fix with 8.1 to stop the bleeding. I assumed Windows 9 would be great, they always seemed to follow the stinkers with decent ones. Instead we got 10.

But enough of that, I agree with Briteguy, we all have the right to use the systems we like and feel comfortable with. I don't mean to bash Microsoft, they need to make a living like everyone else. Unfortunately in my opinion they have gone the way of all high tech, toward treating the customer as something to be manipulated and monetized, instead of creating decent products that respect privacy, and empower the consumer.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
110,818
1,368
152,940
18,390
The forced updates in Win 10 are because MS was between a rock and a hard place.

Previous, you could shut off all updates.
Many did. Knowingly, mistakenly, or because "My nephew is good with computers, and turned it off for me". This included security updates.
Result - Millions of unpatched systems, leading to millions of compromised systems.
For instance, the WannaCry ransomeware. MS put out a patch for this 3 months before it went public. Systems that had updates OFF were vulnerable.

Microsoft is lambasted for this.

Enter Win 10. "You get updates whether you like it or not"
Result - Microsoft is lambasted for this.

Either way, they lose.

And for the record, none of my systems here at home were forcibly upgraded to Win 10. My main system, I even waited until just before (a week?) the official free upgrade period ran out.


I understand your desire for Win 7. But time marches on.
And there is always Linux...;)
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
If you, any you, are having an automated upgrade to Windows 10 from either Windows 7 or 8/8.1 after September 2016 it has to be because someone blocked the update that stopped automatic updates.

Microsoft has not been doing "forced upgrades" for several years now, and that is undeniable or the tech press would be writing about it daily.

It is ridiculous to term Feature Updates as forced, in any meaningful sense. Operating systems, all of them, require updates on a routine basis in this day and age simply for security reasons but also because the diverse user base is asking for additional functionality. Those who maintain the OSes are responding to this.

An operating system is not and never has been a bespoke piece of software meant to satisfy an individual user. An operating system is of the Swiss Army Knife style, meant to satisfy the needs of many demographics to keep a system running such that the applications they want or need can be used.

In all my years in IT I never saw the sort of claims that have become common since the advent of Windows 10 about things that predate it by decades. People were not demanding that Solitaire be removed, all updates be blocked, and similar.

It is a fool's errand to believe that any end user (and I include myself in that group) knows better than the entity that created a given operating system about what needs to be done to maintain it. One of the BSOD experts over on Bleeping Computer wrote the following. Truer words were never spoken (and USAFRet's "my nephew" example is perfect):

There really isn't a point to checking for updates and not installing them. . . It's important to install all available updates. I've been doing this since the days of DOS, and I still don't have the confidence to pick and choose among updates. There are just too many variables involved - and most people can't evaluate the full consequences of installing/not installing updates.
~ John Carrona, AKA usasma on BleepingComputer.com, http://www.carrona.org/
 

AllanGH

Estimable
Mar 10, 2019
2,551
531
3,240
74
Based on what's been offered so far, I have to ask: Why not just use a Windows 10 machine?
For my part in it, I generally tend not to recommend windows solutions because I've never used windows on my machines. My family does, and I've had employers who insist on using windows, but I've had to clean-up mess after mess with windows. Frankly, I cannot understand why people actually pay for such trash, but I do understand that they do pay--over and over, and over.

..."going around Jake's barn, to get to something 5 paces away." actually makes sense when somebody has set-up a poorly-crafted toll gate to charge you a couple hundred bucks to take those 5 paces through the pig sty.

Mind you, that's just my "poorly-informed opinion", formed over the past 4 and a-half decades--not an invitation to engage in a flame war over it.
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
Everyone's entitled to an opinion.

I've been in IT since 1985, and simply don't share it, and never will. I've experienced OS quirkiness with every OS I've ever used, and those on PCs (not just Windows-based ones) in particular. It goes with the territory.
 

michael diemer

Honorable
Feb 2, 2013
131
0
10,690
3
We all speak from our varied experiences, of course. I greatly respect IT professionals who have forgotten more than I will ever know about computers. and when they say things like "you should install all available updates, always," I take a step a back and consider the wisdom in doing this. But my experience, limited and personal as it is, is that I always have had all kinds of problems on windows systems. for example, on my music computer, I have had to reinstall windows 7 twice (including a boatload of programs for my music creation), because, apparently, I unplugged an external hard drive without safely removing it first. Hey, sometimes you just forget. This kind of thing does not happen on Linux. It is smarter that way. not that I haven't had problems with Linux. I've tried about 15-20 distros (also a couple BSD distros), and they all have their little quirks. some proved unusable on my particular system. But Linux keeps getting better. And of course it's more secure than Windows. At this point, except for music, for which I must use windows, I am definitely a Linux guy. And eventually she will be a Linux gal, I hope, except for the Windows 7 relic systems we will keep, along with our Gateway Pentium Windows 98 relic system. She won't let me get rid of it, even though she never uses it. but I've reinstalled W98 and boosted the memory to a whopping 380 MBs, the max it can take. It boots up faster than any of our systems, and we still have all the cool CDs that it came with. Ah, the nineties. The last great decade, as they say...
 

AllanGH

Estimable
Mar 10, 2019
2,551
531
3,240
74
Mainly driver issues with network cards.
These days, most cards are well-supported, but you do run into the occasional card that needs a firmware blob available at installation time, as well as the infrequent card that is simply not supported at all. Sound cards used to be another sticking point, too, but the developers usually get things supported and folded into the latest kernel release after a minor bit of waiting.

The thing about using Linux is that you don't do things haphazardly and hope that all will work swimmingly. You plan things out ahead of time, and prepare everything before you even think about booting an install image.

windows will allow a person to do an installation in a chaotic manner. Many things will at least work at some minimal level--usually, anyways--but windows just isn't competent enough to save somebody from their own self; and, to be honest, most windows users are not familiar with the ins and outs of their hardware, so they have little choice but to plug and pray, then wonder why things blew-up in their face.
 

britechguy

Prominent
Jul 2, 2019
780
102
640
20
most windows users are not familiar with the ins and outs of their hardware,
Through no fault of their own, either.

Computers are no different than cars or common appliances, end users know how to use them, but very little about how to maintain them or what's going on "under the hood." That will never change.

It is difficult to fault Microsoft, and a very great many Linux distros, and MacOs and iOS and Android, too, for trying to make the end user not required to know about things "under the hood."

Heaven knows I'll take how modern OSes, all of them, handle things for "the great unwashed" over the old days where there were "the computer mystics" who "knew all" and could and did plan all sorts of arcane things out to accomplish what's now plug n' play.

To quote salient lyrics from The Way We Were: "What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget!"
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS