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Should I Turn On Enhanced Safe Browsing? Exploring Google’s Improved Safety Feature

Enhanced Safe Browsing can help keep you safer online - but it comes with trade-offs that may not be worth it for some people.

There are a lot of really great things on the internet. But there are also a lot of risks. Even something as simple as visiting a less-than-honest website could open you up to the dangers of phishing and malware. So people who find out about new protection options often want to enable them to protect themselves. If you use Google products, you may be wondering, “Should I turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing?” The feature provides additional protection from online risks – that sounds like a good idea, right?

Like almost everything, there are benefits and drawbacks to Google’s Enhanced Safe Browsing feature. If you’ve been wondering if you should turn this security feature on, this article is for you!

What Enhanced Safe Browsing Does

If you use Google products like Gmail or Chrome, you probably have Safe Browsing already turned on. Enhanced Safe Browsing goes a step beyond that. It provides additional protection from scams, phishing, data collection, malicious websites, sketchy downloads, data brokers, and more. Safe Browsing checks the sites you visit against a list of URLs known to be dangerous. Enhanced Safe Browsing uses machine learning to recognize suspicious sites in real time, even if they’re not on that list. If you’re thinking, “Should I turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing?” this probably already sounds pretty good!

But it has other features, too. It lets you know if new Chrome extensions are trustworthy before you download them. It scans the files you download and blocks them if they’re suspicious. For files that seem risky but aren’t obviously unsafe, it gives you the option to send them to Google for a closer look. The process takes an extra few minutes, but gives you a better chance of avoiding malware. It also scans the usernames and passwords you have saved to see if any have been exposed in a data breach and sends you a notification if your info was exposed. According to Google, users who switch to Enhanced Safe Browsing fall for phishing attempts 35% less on average.

The Downsides of Enhanced Safe Browsing

After reading the last section, this feature may sound pretty good. But not so fast! It may have some fantastic benefits, but it also has drawbacks. And it’s important not to decide if you should turn it on before you know the downsides.

The most obvious drawback to is that it’s a trade-off. You get improved security online, absolutely. But you “pay” with more of your data. Google already takes some of your data to provide a better experience. When you turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing, though, Google gets data from you that it doesn’t normally get, like your downloads. If you value your data staying private, this is something important to consider.

Another downside is that Enhanced Safe Browsing only works on Google properties. It will protect you if you’re using Gmail, the Chrome browser, or Google’s search engine. But if your email is through MSN, you use Firefox or Safari to browse, and you do all your searches through Yahoo, Enhanced Safe Browsing won’t help you. It also has not been released for iOS yet, so if you use an iPhone, you’re out of luck.

As a final downside, it isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, no technological solution is. Enhanced Safe Browsing can detect a lot of threats, but not all. Some of them will likely slip through. It helps, but you will still need common sense and awareness to protect yourself online. There is also a small but present risk of false positives. It may think a site you really need to visit is malicious and block it.

How to Turn On Enhanced Safe Browsing

If you have decided to turn on this feature, you will have to turn it on manually. Google does not turn it on automatically for anyone. To do it, follow these steps:

  1. Open Chrome on your computer or Android device
  2. Click or tap the three dots in the upper right hand corner
  3. In the menu that pulls up, select “Settings”
  4. Click or tap “Privacy and Security” (on your computer, it’s in the sidebar on the left)
  5. On your computer, click “Security,” find the “Safe Browsing” section, and select “Enhanced protection”
  6. On Android, tap “Safe Browsing” and select “Enhanced protection”

To turn off Enhanced Safe Browsing, follow the same steps and select “Standard protection” instead of “Enhanced protection.” There is also an option to select “No protection,” but we don’t recommend this!

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the benefits and drawbacks of this feature, you’re better informed to answer the question, “Should I turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing?” If what’s most important to you is having the best security possible, then turn it on! Whether you’re not confident in your own ability to quickly spot a scam or you just want a little extra assistance, it’s a great tool. It can also give children, elderly parents, or other people you care for and want to protect an extra line of defense. It isn’t a substitute for awareness and knowledge, but it can help.

However, if keeping your data out of Google’s hands is a higher priority than extra technological defenses, it may not be a good idea for you. The feature sends a lot of your data to Google that it wouldn’t otherwise get. If you’re confident in your own ability to spot and evade threats, the privacy trade-off may not be worth it.

Ultimately, the answer to “Should I turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing?” depends on your situation and what’s most important to you. But now that you know how it works and what it can do for you, you are better equipped to make the best decision for you.

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