File Under: Browsers, Security

Google Chrome Beta Adds Privacy and Content Controls

The latest beta release of Google Chrome adds a slew of much needed privacy and content controls — as well as automatic page translation — to Google’s fast, but slightly feature-deficient browser.

The new features — which put Chrome on par with other browsers when it comes to privacy controls — are so far only available to those using the beta channel. Google says the new privacy controls will make it to the stable channel in the coming weeks. If you’d like to switch channels, and try out the new features now, head to the Chrome channel changer page.

The new features allow for much more fine-grained control of cookies, images, JavaScript, plug-ins, and pop-up windows, allowing you to always block them, always allow them or only allow them from trusted sites. The ability to whitelist specific sites matches what Firefox (and others) have long offered and helps close the feature gap between the two browsers.

To access the new controls in the latest release, head to the wrench menu and select “Options.” From there, click the “Under the Hood” tab and chose “Content settings.”

If you elect to disable cookies (or any of the other options) Chrome will display an icon in the URL bar which you can click to add an exception. The process is unfortunately a bit awkward, requiring you to type in the domain exceptions yourself. Choosing the “Ask me” option provides a more automated experience (and a quick lesson in just how many cookies are being set in your browser).

In a particularly nice touch, Chrome offers a link to control Flash cookies via Adobe’s setting page. Other browsers do not (without extensions) provide a way to stop these particularly pernicious cookies.

Chrome’s new features aren’t just for privacy either. The image-blocking feature could be used as a primitive ad blocker, provided you’re willing add the necessary domains. Image blocking can also be handy in situations where your internet connection speeds are slow.

Also part of the new beta release is automatic web page translation. When the language of the page you’re visiting is different from your language setting, Chrome will now offer to translate the page using Google Translate. While machine translations aren’t perfect, Google Translate isn’t bad for conveying the basics of a multilingual page.

If you’d like to take Chrome 4.1 beta for a spin, head over to the beta download page. For more details on the privacy controls, here’s Google’s video intro:

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