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Keep Google Chrome from spilling your secrets to prying eyes

Until Chrome starts helping you guard your privacy, these browser extensions can help.

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Hold onto your online privacy tight and never let it go.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to safeguarding your privacy, Google's Chrome browser isn't in the same league as Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Brave, a new privacy-focused browser. It doesn't do anything to protect you from trackers that gather your online history. In May, Google said it will soon introduce new software settings to give you more control over what you share.

But you don't have to wait for Google to include new privacy controls to get the full coverage of other popular browsers. By adding a few privacy-minded extensions to Chrome, you can block trackers  -- which monitor your browsing activities -- and make it hard to "fingerprint" your browser.

Fingerprinting is an especially sneaky way that advertisers monitor your web activity: When you visit a webpage, your browser and device settings leave hints about you and your system, and looked at together, these hints create a unique set of characteristics that advertisers can use to identify your individual device and then track you without your consent.

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Chrome extensions can also help manage cookies -- small files websites leave on your computer to store your website settings, such as address and other personal identifiable information. 

Social buttons on a webpage can also drop cookies on your computer. An advertiser can use this file, called a third-party cookie, to track you across the web via a social button on a page.

Here's how to protect your privacy using a few Chrome extensions.

How to add and manage extensions to Chrome

1. Head to the Chrome Web Store, and click Extensions over on the left.

2. Using the search box in the top-left corner, enter the name of the extension you are looking for. We list three Chrome extensions below that you can start with.

3. In the search results, locate the extension you want and click Add to Chrome.

4. A dialog will pop up, displaying which permissions the extension will have for your browser. If you approve, click Add extension.

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Tap the menu over on the right.

Screenshot by Clifford Colby/CNET

5. To manage the extension, in Chrome, click the More menu on the right (it's the one with the three vertical dots) and then select More Tools and then Extensions.

6. On the Extensions page, you can turn on or off an extension, remove it or click Details to see more about the extension and what permissions it has.

Chrome privacy extensions starter kit

Until Google adds tools that let give you more control over what you share -- and don't share with websites -- these privacy-minded extensions can help you manage what information websites gather about you on the web.

Cookie AutoDelete (Chrome extension). This extension will auto-delete unused cookies from your closed tabs and let you hold on to ones you want by whitelisting them. After you install, the extension won't delete cookies. You need to enable Auto-clean first, which gives you a chance to whitelist the cookies you want to keep to, say, keep your progress in a game.

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Lock down your privacy with Chrome extensions.

uBlock Origin (Chrome extension). Using a collection of third-party and in-house filter lists, uBlock Origin is a broad-spectrum tracker blocker that won't hog system resources. The extension gives you quite a bit of control over what you block. You can leave the extension in easy mode -- which has a light touch on blocking so as to not break websites -- or select Medium, Hard or Nightmare mode, which range from a reasonable approach to thwarting trackers to blocking everything -- and making the web all but unusable

Privacy Badger (Chrome extension). Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, watches for third-party trackers that monitor your browsing across websites and blocks their ability to track your activity without your permission. Privacy Badger works much like the uBlock Origin but is intended to be simpler to use, giving you simple sliders to control how much or little you want to block. And if the extension is breaking a page, you can click the disable button to turn it off for the site.

Note: You may need to tweak the extension settings if you find that some of your favorite sites behave strangely after you turn them on.