Q. Why does the Google Chrome browser app open so many processes on my computer, including several "Reporter" processes that I fear might be harvesting my data. Should I be worried about this?
A. As pictured below, opening just one Chrome browser tab results in the launching of many Chrome processes. This is because in addition to launching a process for Chrome's main browser functionality, Chrome is engineered to also launch separate processes for each tab, plug-in, and extension. The total number of processes depends upon your browser's settings, plug-ins, and extension functionality. Reportedly, Google's Software Reporter Tool monitors Chrome and reports any add-ons or anomalies interfering with your browser's normal function, which enables Google to isolate and address stability problems. Therefore, you need not worry about this particular process as a data harvesting app.
As for Google's other running processes, you can view a full list of them by pressing Shift+Esc in a Chrome window to launch Task Manager, pictured below. You can also access the Task Manager by clicking on the Chrome Menu (three vertical dots in the top right corner of the browser) and then selecting More Tools, Task Manager. From here you can select and end any running process you don't want by pressing the End process button in the lower right corner. Please note that you may need to expand the Task Manager's window size to view all details.
So, as far as the Chrome app goes, the use of separate processes is intended to help make the product more stable. However, the search tools and internet provider you use are different matters. When using most internet search engines, you grant them rights to harvest all of your searches and collect a list of all of the websites you have visited. You might be shocked to learn that in many cases, their harvested information contains videos that they can view later of each of your surfing sessions, including your cursor movements and how much time you spent on each page viewing a paragraph, product, or image. To protect your browsing sessions from being harvested, I recommend using the search engine at DuckDuckGo.com — a search tool that claims not to harvest your browsing data. To protect your surfing sessions from being recorded by your internet provider, I also recommend you install a virtual private network (VPN) solution, like the one described in my June 2018 Tech Q&A item "Protect Your Online Privacy With a VPN."
About the author
J. Carlton Collins, CPA, (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a technology consultant, a conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor.
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