How To Remove The RLZ Tracking ID From Chromium Browser

August 2, 2010 at 3:35 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Please Note: This post is old, written in August 2010. This information may be out of date now.

The tl;dr version

I’ve ignored Google’s Chrome browser ever since it first came out. I don’t like some of its behavior, particularly the automatic updates that cannot be controlled by the user. Google tends to include auto-updaters in nearly all of their desktop software but never provides a way to disable them. They simply cannot seem to understand that they do not acquire ownership of a computer just because someone installs their software on it. I have refused to have any Google software installed on my computer for years for that reason.

Because I’ve never paid any attention to Chrome, I didn’t realize until just the other night that Chromium browser existed. Chromium browser is an open source version of Chrome without any Google branding, with fewer things that call home to Google by default and, most importantly to me, no automatic updater. In other words, it’s a better behaved version of Chrome that doesn’t do most of the things I dislike.

I downloaded Chromium last night and stayed up late playing with it. I have to say, I am impressed. Now I see what the fuss over Chrome is all about. I’ve been a loyal fan of Firefox for several years but they really do have serious competition here.

One thing I noticed was that, while Chromium behaves itself better than Chrome, it still acts naughty in a couple of ways. When you use it to search Google from the so-called Omnibar (fancy name for the address bar), it inserts a tracking ID into the address [pic] so that Google can record and track it. As I understand it, the number is unique to the server from which you originally downloaded the browser. Not a huge deal, but unwanted nonetheless.

I went into the search engine options to change the Google setting and remove that. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised to discover that they have disabled the ability to change the address string sent to Google. They’ve also greyed out the settings for Bing and Yahoo too for some unknown reason. All other search engine settings can be edited as expected.

This is what Google thinks of your right to control software on your own computer

Google's idea of user choice

That’s really obnoxious, Google. This is my computer, not yours.

I searched around a bit to see if there was an extension available to remove the ID but couldn’t find one. In the end, I just created a workaround by simply creating a new search engine listing for Google with my own settings and making it the default.

Who cares? Get to the instructions!

Yes, I ramble. Here’s how to do get rid of the RLZ ID:

  • Open Options > Basic Stuff and click the Manage button next to Default Search:
  • Click Add. Type whatever you like for Name and Keyword
  • In the URL box, paste this and click OK: {google:baseURL}search?&safe=off&num=100&q=%s
  • Select the new listing you just added and click Make Default

That should get rid of the tracking number. It also turns off safe search and makes each search show 100 results instead of just 10.

If you like to use search suggestions, add this to the URL box somewhere after search? and before &q=%s: {google:acceptedSuggestion}{google:originalQueryForSuggestion}. I can’t promise that will work, since I’ve never used the feature myself.

I suppose you could do this same thing in Chrome as well. However, I believe Chrome has a rlz.dll file located in the Chrome program folder that you can just delete for the same effect. I’m not really certain about that.

And now, I’m going to go play with Chromium some more. It really is a very nice browser, once you make it behave.

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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous said,

    I’ve also been using Chromium as my go-to browser as of late. One trick I use for my search strings is simply open Firefox and browse to the page with the search box that I want to shortcut. Right-click in the search box and select “Add a Keyword for this Search…”. After you fill in the bookmark information, open up your bookmarks library manager. Select the bookmark you just created. The URL in the bottom pane is the search string that you want—select and copy it. Now go into the Chrome/Chromium search engine manager and paste that string into the URL box and fill in the other information. Your keyword and search string should now work in the omni box.

    Also, if you want to keep up to date on the latest Chromium build, I found this plugin that I recommend: https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/hcmicnfbmcjhlbdohdmdhfjlbigkcddl

  2. anktastic (@anktastic) said,

    Great stuff. Thanks!

  3. Balderdash said,

    “Chromium” is a great browser but Google have turned their distribution “Chrome” into a deceitful “in-depth” spyware.
    Fortunately the “Ixquick” search engine allows us to navigate in “Chromium” both secretly and securely. Their homepage gives all the instructions for remaining entirely anonymous while using “Chromium”.
    Many thanks !

  4. cog said,

    Isn’t perpetual tracking grand?

    http://code.google.com/p/rlz/wiki/HowToReadAnRlzString

    Why should anyone trust google’s “do no evil” motto? The grammatically impaired conflate it with “do good”.

    This is a gross error! “do no evil” is NOT synonymous with “do good”.

    If google were to set you on fire that would violate “do no evil”

    But if you were already on fire doing nothing would violate ONLY “do good”.

    RLZ was created with the _intention_ of being non personally identifiable. But RLZ does not exist in a vacuum: it exists in the context of your google profile. You identify yourself to google by logging into any google property. You are also identified by ANY cookie from your cross domain broswing with information leasing association with google. (obviously I am not claiming domainX can read domainY cookie).

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