Do you use this handy web browser feature?

By | April 24, 2023
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When I write these emails, I try to make sure you get a good mix of things that are useful on PCs, laptops, phones and tablets. I know not everyone has one of each, so to keep it useful I include a mix.

But this time I’ve got something that can be really handy whichever you use – particularly if you use any two (or even two of the same – eg a laptop at home and a PC at work).

When you’re browsing the web, sometimes your web browser will remember things for you to make your life easier. Usually little things like when you start typing in a web address – you get as far as “hel” and it finishes it for you as “”.

It works because it knows you’ve been to that site before and so there’s a good chance that’s the one you want this time (and if it isn’t, you can just keep typing and you haven’t lost out).

Similarly it might finish filling out some web forms for you or remember other bits and bobs.

But if you’ve (say) visited a website on one device (say your laptop) and then want to visit it on another one (say your phone), then the phone doesn’t know that you’ve been to that website, so it can’t finish it off for you.

Except, if it’s set up right, it can.

For example, if you use Google Chrome on both devices, then you can make sure they’re both logged into your Google account and it will know that both devices are “you” and will share information between them, making life a bit easier.

To sign in, just open Chrome on each device and go to Google’s homepage.  If there’s a “Sign in” button in the top right, click or tap on that and put in your account details (if you don’t have a Google account, it’ll let you set one up for free).  Or if you’re signed in already, there’ll be a circle “account” icon in the top right instead, with your initial or a little picture of you.

Then once both devices are signed in to Chrome, it’ll start sharing information between them.

(This can also be useful if you switch from an old laptop or other device to a new one – if you’re signed into your Google account on both, then it’ll remember the things the old one had remembered about you, so you don’t need to start from new.)

If you use a different browser on both devices (say you use Edge on a desktop PC and a laptop), then you can log into the relevant account on both of those – e.g. for Edge it would be a Microsoft account.

Of course, I’ve been talking recently about privacy and you may not want both devices to know what each other are doing. And this is one way you can be tracked as still being you when you’re on a different device. If you’re not happy with that, you might want to go into the settings of your browsers and make sure they aren’t both signed into the same account (or to any account for that matter). Just be aware that this is only one method that can be used to tell it’s you on both devices – there are far more sophisticated methods that will still be able to be used on you.

Which brings me neatly on to the Privacy book…

There are a lot of features like this around, that can make life easier for you, but do mean sharing more information than you might be happy with.  The trick is to make sure you know what information is actually being shared, and who it’s being shared with.  What happens to your data, why it matters, whether you’re happy with that and what you can do about it.

Of course, if you want to know all that, then you know where to turn. And in fact our updated book Privacy: Truth and Lies – The Truth About Privacy in the Modern World and How it Affects Your Life (whether you know it or not) should arrive in stock later this week (I’ll let you know as soon as they arrive from the printers up in Newcastle).

So if you haven’t ordered a copy yet and you don’t know why you should be concerned about privacy… or you do worry about what could be done with some of the information about you if it fell into the wrong hands… or you’re just curious what all the fuss is about…

…then you’d best read what I’ve got to say about it here.

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