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 Forum index » Off-Topic Area » Security
Google, Chrome & Youtube - "online memory"
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greengeek


Joined: 20 Jul 2010
Posts: 4715
Location: Republic of Novo Zelande

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 12:40    Post subject:  Google, Chrome & Youtube - "online memory"
Subject description: Security risk?
 

I have my puppy set up with no savefile. Once the system shuts down it has no record of anything I did in the previous session - including no retention of browser cache or online history.

This is similar to what happens if you boot Puppy from a CD then shut down without creating a savefile.

I do this as a security measure - however recently I have been noticing that when I open my Chrome browser it knows exactly what i was looking at during my last session. For example if I browse to youtube - the "suggested videos" which appear down the right hand continue the theme of what i was looking at during my last online session.

How?

I have no cache and no record of what I did last time I was online. But obviously Google does.

Obviously they recognise my machine and feed me what they think I want to see.

Sometimes this might be beneficial - but it irritates me that my choices (what I search for in Google, and what pops up as "similar videos" in Youtube) are being "shaped" by Google.

I enjoy randomness and if I am browsing Youtube I want to randomly choose what appeals to me - I don't want my experience "shaped" and my browsing "steered by distraction".

If they are keeping a record of my IP and machine specs in order to artificially tailor my online experience then what options do I have to stop this from happening?

I don't just want to change browsers. I want to stop Google from spying, storing my information, and grooming me.

It's creepy.

Last edited by greengeek on Thu 09 Nov 2017, 02:40; edited 1 time in total
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belham2

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 1298

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 12:46    Post subject: Re: Google and Chrome - "online memory"
Subject description: Security risk?
 

greengeek wrote:
I have my puppy set up with no savefile. Once the system shuts down it has no record of anything I did in the previous session - including no retention of browser cache or online history.

This is similar to what happens if you boot Puppy from a CD then shut down without creating a savefile.

I do this as a security measure - however recently I have been noticing that when I open my Chrome browser it knows exactly what i was looking at during my last session. For example if I browse to youtube - the "suggested videos" which appear down the right hand continue the theme of what i was looking at during my last online session.

How?

I have no cache and no record of what I did last time I was online. But obviously Google does.

Obviously they recognise my machine and feed me what they think I want to see.

Sometimes this might be beneficial - but it irritates me that my choices (what I search for in Google, and what pops up as "similar videos" in Youtube) are being "shaped" by Google.

I enjoy randomness and if I am browsing Youtube I want to randomly choose what appeals to me - I don't want my experience "shaped" and my browsing "steered by distraction".

If they are keeping a record of my IP and machine specs in order to artificially tailor my online experience then what options do I have to stop this from happening?

I don't just want to change browsers. I want to stop Google from spying, storing my information, and grooming me.

It's creepy.



Unfortunately the hoi polloi of the Internet think this is the greatest thing since 'sliced'bread'. Rolling Eyes We are a minority voice, a very, very, VERY small minority. Crying or Very sad
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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
Posts: 3134
Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 13:50    Post subject:  

Hi, GG.

You have to realise, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you regularly clear your cache. If you're using Chrome (whether signed in with an a/c or not) Google recognise your machine, every time it appears online.

When you fire Chrome up, there's always a brief burst of network activity as the browser 'phones home' to the 'mother ship'. Your IP address is noted, along with various stuff that shows online about your system; it's astounding how much info they can glean from the browser 'fingerprint'.

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/

You have a scan down the page, and see just what they do find out about you! This is all logged on a server somewhere. And remember; Google primarily make their money from ads and the search engine. Chrome, Earth, Android, Hangouts, the on-line Office suite, machine-learning, etc.....these are all pleasant little distractions on the side for Google - not the major income earners, by a long chalk!

I've long taken the view that I may as well stick with Google. I've been with them for well over a decade now. It's a case of 'better the devil you know', I feel...


Mike. Wink

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dancytron

Joined: 18 Jul 2012
Posts: 937

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 15:28    Post subject:  

If you want to start from scratch every time, delete the user profile and cache.

If you are running as root, the user profile would be /root/.config/google-chrome/* and the cache would be /root/.cache/google-chrome unless you specifically used the command line to put them somewhere else. If running as spot, I assume they are in a similar place.

Just judging by the way it acts, Chrome then thinks you are a brand new computer and will set up a new user profile each time.
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greengeek


Joined: 20 Jul 2010
Posts: 4715
Location: Republic of Novo Zelande

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 15:53    Post subject:  

dancytron wrote:
IIf you are running as root, the user profile would be /root/.config/google-chrome/* and the cache would be /root/.cache/google-chrome unless you specifically used the command line to put them somewhere else. If running as spot, I assume they are in a similar place.
Just judging by the way it acts, Chrome then thinks you are a brand new computer and will set up a new user profile each time.


Here's the thing - my system is set up in such a way it is impossible for it to remember the cache contents from my last internet session. It is all dumped., including any root cache.

Therefore Chrome should treat me as a new user each time - which means the tracking/monitoring must be happening online.

The only possible explanation i see is that youtube (and google in all its forms) recognises my machine enough to feel confident pushing exactly the same videos (and others similar) to me without prompting. Actually, i don't really mind being monitored - i understand this Stasi mentallity is part of the new western "democratic" order - what I really object to is the assumption that what i want to watch this session is the same topic that I watched last session.

I want my search terms to bring up relevant (and random) responses. I want slight changes in the wording of my google searches to generate a completely new search, not always returning to a narrow subset of what they know I have viewed before.

It is starting to feel as if I am looking into a fishbowl. Same old goldfish swimming around and i know it's NOT my browser cache that is keeping me trapped. It is google/youtube altering the "reality" I can see.

Youtube is the heart of democracy in the sense that communication is the only thing that prevents unreasonable control. It is the Gutenberg effect. I don't want my youtube experience to be limited by artificial means.

Give it a try. Boot puppy from CD multiple times over several days and each time search youtube for one specific topic (Don't make savefiles). Watch 5 or more vids on that topic then shut down. Reboot the next day (same machine, same CD) and request a different youtube topic. Look at what type of video appears down the right hand "up next" margin of the browser and see if it is fresh or tainted by yesterdays searches.

Or am I getting even more paranoid...
Confused
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rufwoof

Joined: 24 Feb 2014
Posts: 2161

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 16:08    Post subject:  

Mike Walsh wrote:
When you fire Chrome up, there's always a brief burst of network activity as the browser 'phones home' to the 'mother ship'. Your IP address is noted, along with various stuff that shows online about your system; it's astounding how much info they can glean from the browser 'fingerprint'.

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/

You have a scan down the page, and see just what they do find out about you! This is all logged on a server somewhere.

Pretty much nowt in my case, approximate location (within 50 miles) and IP as I run with NoScript (no javascript unless I temporarily allow it on selected web pages). So nothing was detected and the browser/operating system was wrong as I use useragent (showed as using Linux/Fedora whilst I'm actually running OpenBSD. Alone that can be a reasonable anti-hack as dubious web sites will tend to throw the wrong penetration attacks your way ... such as Linux attack vectors being thrown at a BSD system in my case).

For proper visiting where I'm happy for a website to see things I just use Help, Restart with Addons Disabled in firefox, Google as you say however are much more intent on data collection/user-profiling that is Mozilla.
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dancytron

Joined: 18 Jul 2012
Posts: 937

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov 2017, 16:22    Post subject:  

greengeek wrote:
dancytron wrote:
IIf you are running as root, the user profile would be /root/.config/google-chrome/* and the cache would be /root/.cache/google-chrome unless you specifically used the command line to put them somewhere else. If running as spot, I assume they are in a similar place.
Just judging by the way it acts, Chrome then thinks you are a brand new computer and will set up a new user profile each time.


Here's the thing - my system is set up in such a way it is impossible for it to remember the cache contents from my last internet session. It is all dumped., including any root cache.

Therefore Chrome should treat me as a new user each time - which means the tracking/monitoring must be happening online.

The only possible explanation i see is that youtube (and google in all its forms) recognises my machine enough to feel confident pushing exactly the same videos (and others similar) to me without prompting. Actually, i don't really mind being monitored - i understand this Stasi mentallity is part of the new western "democratic" order - what I really object to is the assumption that what i want to watch this session is the same topic that I watched last session.

I want my search terms to bring up relevant (and random) responses. I want slight changes in the wording of my google searches to generate a completely new search, not always returning to a narrow subset of what they know I have viewed before.

It is starting to feel as if I am looking into a fishbowl. Same old goldfish swimming around and i know it's NOT my browser cache that is keeping me trapped. It is google/youtube altering the "reality" I can see.

Youtube is the heart of democracy in the sense that communication is the only thing that prevents unreasonable control. It is the Gutenberg effect. I don't want my youtube experience to be limited by artificial means.

Give it a try. Boot puppy from CD multiple times over several days and each time search youtube for one specific topic (Don't make savefiles). Watch 5 or more vids on that topic then shut down. Reboot the next day (same machine, same CD) and request a different youtube topic. Look at what type of video appears down the right hand "up next" margin of the browser and see if it is fresh or tainted by yesterdays searches.

Or am I getting even more paranoid...
Confused


Try what I suggested. After you close Chrome, use rox filer and just delete the folders I said. Check under /root and /spot. Then start Chrome up again and (of course) don't log in to any Google sites. I am 99 % sure it will think you are a brand new install and won't remember you.

edit: Did you install Chrome, use it, and then remaster? If you did, then you probably remastered the User Profile into you installation. That would explain why it knows who you are even if you don't use a save file/folder.
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greengeek


Joined: 20 Jul 2010
Posts: 4715
Location: Republic of Novo Zelande

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 02:44    Post subject:  

dancytron wrote:
Try what I suggested. After you close Chrome, use rox filer and just delete the folders I said. Check under /root and /spot. Then start Chrome up again and (of course) don't log in to any Google sites. I am 99 % sure it will think you are a brand new install and won't remember you.
You are right. It seems to be the chrome settings that identify my machine. That is a bit annoying as it means it is impossible to set any security enhancements in the settings without creating a profile that allows Google to keep your web history permanently online.

I prefer browsers that allow history to be forgotten (didn't google recently get taken to court for failure to allow people's past internet profile to be forgotten??)

More fool me for actually believing that Googles sponsorship of software improvements against hackers was focused on user safety and benefit. Nope - they just want to ring fence me for their own advantage.
Quote:
Did you install Chrome, use it, and then remaster? If you did, then you probably remastered the User Profile into you installation.
Yes, I guess that must be what I did. However - that was over a year ago and that profile certainly did not include the topics I searched for in the last week.

So basically - any effort to change the Chrome settings and save resultant profile (even though it does not include any browsing history) gives google full identification of your machine and it watches your search history (and retains it) forever. Zero security.

Would be interesting to know if that "profile fingerprinting" is effective even when IP address changes. Probably. Again - this is creepy behaviour.

Strangely the youtube "topic framing" is something I only noticed in the last month or so. Makes me think they must have found some financially (or politically) beneficial reason why they should start using this intrusive spying methodology.

Probably time for me to say goodbye to Chrome.

EDIT : this thread highlights what I mean by "ring fencing" of the user and "topic framing" of the browser:
Quote:
In the Observer, Carole Cadwalladr’s ongoing investigation has highlighted how analytic techniques were used in the recent EU referendum to target and craft messages to groups of persuadable voters based on psychological insights gleaned from online data.

So basically - they identify who you are, then filter your web experience to shape your behaviour by limiting your world view and information access.

EDIT 2 : Time for me to take this info on board: https://www.leavegooglebehind.com/chrome-fans-read-this/
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dancytron

Joined: 18 Jul 2012
Posts: 937

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 04:06    Post subject:  

Well, at least they aren't tracking your machine by ip number or some other fingerprint that you can't control. The profile is on your machine and you can delete it any time you want and start fresh. Not quite as evil as you first thought, although still somewhat evil.

There is also an "incognito" setting. TBH, I just use it to read the New York Times without paying for it, but it lets you start fresh every time without deleting anything and you can have it still use your script and ad blockers, if you set it up that way.
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p310don

Joined: 19 May 2009
Posts: 1113
Location: Brisbane, Australia

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 06:49    Post subject:  

It'd be worth a try to set up a new, and maybe different puppy on the same machine and same IP address, install chrome and see what happens.

Then you'd know whether they are "machine profiling" or there is something in your installation that gives them either an "installation profile" or "OS profile".
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cthisbear

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 4215
Location: Sydney Australia

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 08:03    Post subject:  

I always have the install file >> pet>> of Palemoon or slimjet
and my bookmarks on usb or hard drive.

After booting Puppy I install one or both, load the bookmarks,
go through all the security preferences>> turn off history etc....
do my banking first...Puppy and Whirlpool etc...
might check out Youtube for music etc...

shutdown with no save file, and with this have never noticed
the Youtube Google behaviour.

The trouble is security for Mr Average is crap.

When Putin turned to typewriters years ago we halfway knew
we were stuffed. What a World!

Chris.
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belham2

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 1298

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 08:21    Post subject:  

p310don wrote:
It'd be worth a try to set up a new, and maybe different puppy on the same machine and same IP address, install chrome and see what happens.

Then you'd know whether they are "machine profiling" or there is something in your installation that gives them either an "installation profile" or "OS profile".


Ok, here goes: (typing quickly, forgive the massive spelling errors, punctuation and whatever that will result): Google currently has 3 levels of Net Access Profiling (NAP) upon a machine (any) coming onto the Net & it touches a server controlled by them:

1) first, basic; the IP is grabbed along with any local-machine-level things that might still exist (if you didn't wipe profiles, cookies, etc) as you connect from the local to the wider Net.

2) if the IP is grabbed and there's nothing else they see, and you are blocking and/or obfuscating the machine fingerprint and/or profile, then the IP is scanned against the geo-network-cluster you are coming in on. That geo-location-fingerprint is key for Google at the moment, because it is as specific as they can get if you are actually thwarting them otherwise. Still, their algo(s) are getting freaky good. Using things like times connected, the various trails is you surf anywhere & happen to touch them, how you arrived to them, etc, etc, within a few thousandths of a second Google algo(s) will attempt to ascertain if they recognize you and/or machine. If they believe they do (word inside Google is PCT, possible-recogniction-target, level used is an estimated accuracy of 85% guesstimation), Google & its phalanx of ad servers then grabbed the appropriate detail and feed it to your machine within the next few thousands of a sec---as the 2-3 seconds occur as you wait till your browser settles down and is ready to go.

3) the last thing Google does is where it (and them) are getting, yes, a bit creepy: Google has ingratiated themselves to a vast majority of ISP providers around the world (virtually every one of the bigs in the Western world are now part of this). If you don't realize, these ISP providers usually insist you use their DNS, and if not, you will still be logged as get to your preferred DNS. Well, guess who has been graciously offering the past 6-7 years to provide free access to DNS Servers around the world? You guessed it, Google. So even when you logged in, have your browser blank as possible, with no local-machine-fingerprinting going on, Google is usually seeing you in a way. You can try to thwart this with alternative DNS and VPN, but even then your local ISP logs what you initially do, and they sahre that info with Google (the continual effort to earn money). So, even if you keep popping up out of a VPN and/or DNS, in the same or regional geo-location (and do not stagger your VPN login locations), they start to finger/profile you. They see the same settings you had used before (even if you attempt to browser ID scramble, that is seen & logged).

You will have people like rufwoof, and many other denizens around the world, thinking they are outwitting every Google (and any entity like it) is doing. The fallacy of that would be laughable if it wasn't these people really, actually believed it. It reminds me of people who attached a rubber strip on the rear undercarriage of their car because they believe it takes all radar signals and whatever & sends the signal to the ground, where it magically disappears. Confused


The support for all things above this paragraph (and forgive me for hastily writing it), including by many gov'ts around the world for all of this, is obvious. They want as much as possible. Data is wealth. Data is power. Data is force. Data is survival. All govt's and business now know this. So, for example, even if you may be trying to go to other DNS providers and/or are using VPN (and you can bet those DNS providers are already compromised (and/or complicit), and the porous nature of VPNs who still keep substantial logs despite telling their customers otherwise)-------anyhow, they want to know and have a way to know. With the great big data-suck that has been going on the past several years, you're just chasing your butt at the moment trying to fight this. Not until how the Internet is structured and built, when possible new, separate Nets come up and online, with crypto built at its core, will the game change. They new ones will (and are) arriving, but it is taking time. Mean time, Google (and their enablers) are just going to keep on Googling until they are no longer able. And it will get deeper, more extensive, more fully AI...if you haven't guess that already.


As a side note, it is not hard to see this: the day is coming when intelligent-nearly alive/aware AIs are going to be sitting at the edge of the world's local-networks connection hubs waiting for their children (that'd be us all) to come online---all so they can make our experience a much grandeur thing Rolling Eyes

The genie(s) is/are out of the bottle, gentleman, and there ain't much hope of putting her or them back.


P.S. This post could be misconstrued as dark and ominous. That may well be us oldsters talking. Imho, many of us come from a generation where this stuff bothers us, but there is also a younger generation who doesn't even flinch and/or blink an eye, because they think it is 'normal', it is 'useful', and it all helps keep them "both safe & in the loop".
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musher0


Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Posts: 11153
Location: Gatineau (Qc), Canada

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov 2017, 23:10    Post subject:  

Hi greengeek.

There is a feature in any Puppy that allows the user to do / customize a number of
things at startup and shutdown.

BarryK explains how to do it in file /etc/init.d/README.txt, 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.

Now I don't know Chrome, but if you give me the exact path and filename of the
file(s) to delete I could write you a little "stop_" script that does it automatically.

Or maybe someone who knows a thing or two about Chrome (not naming anyone! Smile )
could do it better than I can. (But I'd be glad to.)

You said something about youtube, and that means Flash, right? (Not our
moderator, the video player!). In /root, Puppy has an .adobe directory. If you drill
down that dir., you'll find traces of the latest youtube vids you viewed. I think those
traces should be erased too when you shutdown. With the change to html5 in the
newer browsers, I don't know how useful that can be nowadays, but it can't hurt.

IHTH.

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« Il ne faut pas multiplier les entités logiques sans nécessité. » (Ockham)
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greengeek


Joined: 20 Jul 2010
Posts: 4715
Location: Republic of Novo Zelande

PostPosted: Thu 09 Nov 2017, 01:10    Post subject:  

musher0 wrote:
Now I don't know Chrome, but if you give me the exact path and filename of the file(s) to delete I could write you a little "stop_" script that does it automatically.
Thanks Musher - but if I understand this situation correctly it means that I need to run without any Chrome profile ever - ie I need to remaster the Chrome profile out of my personal sfs completely.

Removing it at shutdown won't help because it would be recreated as soon as I tried to change the Chrome settings again at next boot.

It seems to be the creation of a Chrome profile that allows Youtube to sense which machine I am on and to trigger its awareness of what is in my browsing session (this is an important point - my profile was definitely not holding the history of my last online session - Youtube was holding that history information - just waiting for the same profile to come back online).

It seems as if the creation of a profile includes a "fingerprinting" of my whole machine - a fingerprint that then becomes part of Youtube's database. Youtube is evidently sufficiently convinced of the accuracy of this fingerprint that they are prepared to push topics of the same nature as what I watched "last session".

I suppose you could say that the profile merely holds a "super cookie" to identify me - but I get the feeling it is more than that.

Even if it is a supercookie - why should that be considered acceptable just because I decided to change my homepage? (An action which results in profile creation).

So it seems that the only way to use Chrome in a semi-anonymous way is to never create a profile. ie; never alter the Chrome settings (because that is what triggers the profile creation).

However, I need to test this more to be sure at what point Youtube recognises me as the same machine.

If I can't find a way to stay anonymous after having changed the Chrome settings to what I want then I will be rejecting Chrome. I can't accept a browser that permits that sort of snooping - It means that if I search youtube for medical information about "genital warts" then that is what my children will see if they start up Chrome and visit Youtube after I have shut it down. Shocked

Quote:
You said something about youtube, and that means Flash, right?
No not necessarily. Youtube can serve up videos in HTML5 at any time I believe. I think any user can upload the video as HTML5 and that is what will be available to the viewer. Youtube used to offer an invisible transcription (wrong word??) from Flash to HTML5 or vice versa depending on what the viewing machine had available but I had a feeling that they no longer offer both options.

I think they automatically convert a Flash video to HTML5 if the viewer does not have the ability to play flash (eg Apple?) but I dont think they automatically change from HTML5 back to Flash if the viewer only has Flash capability and the video uploader only supplied HTML5 originally.

I could be wrong though.
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dancytron

Joined: 18 Jul 2012
Posts: 937

PostPosted: Thu 09 Nov 2017, 01:39    Post subject:  

greengeek wrote:
musher0 wrote:
Now I don't know Chrome, but if you give me the exact path and filename of the file(s) to delete I could write you a little "stop_" script that does it automatically.
Thanks Musher - but if I understand this situation correctly it means that I need to run without any Chrome profile ever - ie I need to remaster the Chrome profile out of my personal sfs completely.

Removing it at shutdown won't help because it would be recreated as soon as I tried to change the Chrome settings again at next boot.

It seems to be the creation of a Chrome profile that allows Youtube to sense which machine I am on and to trigger its awareness of what is in my browsing session (this is an important point - my profile was definitely not holding the history of my last online session - Youtube was holding that history information - just waiting for the same profile to come back online).

It seems as if the creation of a profile includes a "fingerprinting" of my whole machine - a fingerprint that then becomes part of Youtube's database. Youtube is evidently sufficiently convinced of the accuracy of this fingerprint that they are prepared to push topics of the same nature as what I watched "last session".

I suppose you could say that the profile merely holds a "super cookie" to identify me - but I get the feeling it is more than that.

Even if it is a supercookie - why should that be considered acceptable just because I decided to change my homepage? (An action which results in profile creation).

So it seems that the only way to use Chrome in a semi-anonymous way is to never create a profile. ie; never alter the Chrome settings (because that is what triggers the profile creation).

However, I need to test this more to be sure at what point Youtube recognises me as the same machine.

If I can't find a way to stay anonymous after having changed the Chrome settings to what I want then I will be rejecting Chrome. I can't accept a browser that permits that sort of snooping - It means that if I search youtube for medical information about "genital warts" then that is what my children will see if they start up Chrome and visit Youtube after I have shut it down. Shocked

Quote:
You said something about youtube, and that means Flash, right?
No not necessarily. Youtube can serve up videos in HTML5 at any time I believe. I think any user can upload the video as HTML5 and that is what will be available to the viewer. Youtube used to offer an invisible transcription (wrong word??) from Flash to HTML5 or vice versa depending on what the viewing machine had available but I had a feeling that they no longer offer both options.

I think they automatically convert a Flash video to HTML5 if the viewer does not have the ability to play flash (eg Apple?) but I dont think they automatically change from HTML5 back to Flash if the viewer only has Flash capability and the video uploader only supplied HTML5 originally.

I could be wrong though.


The way I understand it, Chrome creates a user profile the first time you start it up and downloads some stuff and sets up everything (including the pepper flash thing) and puts them in the user directory in ~/.config. If, and only if, you log on to Google Chrome itself, it will save your user profile online.

So, if you delete the stuff under ~/.config, and then save or remaster, the next time you start up Chrome, it thinks you are a brand new computer and you have no history. If you then log into Chrome, it still thinks you are a new install and so it downloads the user profile that it saved online from before thinking you have another computer. It will ask you if you want to sync up your new computer and give you a chance to set up how it does that.

So, if you want anonymity, I think you get it if delete the stuff under ~/.config after every session (or don't use a save file and don't have it in your remaster), because with that stuff gone, it doesn't know who you are until you tell it by logging in to Chrome.

I have a script I run before I remaster to delete stuff. It is for Debian dog, so you'd need to change the path for /home/puppy to the path for spot.

I cut out the Chrome part:
Code:

rm -r /home/puppy/.config/google-chrome ; rm -r /home/puppy/.cache/google-chrome ; rm -r /root/.cache/google-chrome  ; rm -r /root/.config/google-chrome
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