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Why every super paranoid internet user needs a cheap Chromebook

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Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.


Google’s Pixelbook is my favorite Chromebook ever. It’s thin, light, really fast, and converts into a tablet. It’s the best Chromebook there is, in my opinion.

But I secretly prefer a really cheap and crappier Chromebook, like the $150 Hisense one I reviewed a few years ago.

I know you’re judging me hard. Yes, I prefer all of my other technology to be cutting edge. But give me a chance to at least try to explain why a shitty Chromebook is one of my best-kept secrets, and why you should consider getting one for yourself.

Let me get this out of the way: Google owns all of my data. Between Gmail, Google Maps, Google Keep Notes, Google Assistant, and on and on, Google has collected mountains of information on me. It’s, quite frankly, really scary.

There simply is no privacy if you use Google services. But it’s not just Google. If you so much as connect to the internet, you’re leaving some kind of digital trail — visible or not — that could lead back to you.

Generally, I wouldn’t call myself a paranoid guy, and I’m honestly not doing anything illegal (at least I don’t think I am?), but I do worry from time to time about whether my computer is being watched without my knowing it.

I know it’s not foolproof, but I feel a little more comfortable with a piece of tape covering all of my laptops’ webcams. I use Chrome’s incognito mode whenever I don’t need access to my personal Google data. 

I also do all my personal banking via my phone and only over LTE, which is a more secure connection than WiFi. No, I almost never use public WiFi (you’re just asking to be snooped on), and yes, my home WiFi network is locked down like a bank vault with a password so strong I can’t ever possibly remember it.

Paying for Radio Silence to block incoming and outgoing traffic for certain apps I’m suspicious of was one of the best app purchases I’ve ever made.

Seriously, I’ve taken just about every possible precaution to make sure nobody is spying on me and my internet activities.

And yet!

I use a shitty Chromebook. Why?

Because I treat it like a burner phone. With guest mode, where I never have to enter any Google login, I feel just a little safer than using an incognito tab.

After every session, I exit guest mode so that it clears my internet browsing cache. Each new session is fresh.

Guest mode prevents any way for Google to know who I really am. There can be no exploits that “accidentally” expose my data, because I never complete that online handshake.

If I’m abroad and need to stream, say, a video from a site that might be questionable, I don’t have to worry about some kind of malware secretly installing itself in the background and uploading all of my private files and data to some server in, say, Russia or China because — oh, what’s that? — I don’t store any important data on my Chromebook. Not to mention, my bare-bones Chromebook has less than 32GB of storage.

Just to cover my tracks, I often keep a whole bunch of fake files on my Chromebook — useless stuff like screenshots.

Also, using a Chromebook means it’s almost impossible to get a virus. Just about everything within Chrome OS is sandboxed, and viruses designed for Windows and Macs usually have no effect on Google’s OS.

Even if I did somehow get a virus or malware, it’s not like it’d have any of my real data. I’d just factory reset the machine, and it would be good as new in a few minutes.

But perhaps the biggest reason I use a crappy Chromebook for so many of my private online activities is because if anyone were to ever track me down and try to get ahold of my computer, I’d just …

Yep, that’s right. I’d grab the hammer I have conveniently placed in the cabinet underneath my kitchen sink, smash my Chromebook to a million pieces (making sure to destroy the SSD, of course), and then walk down the block and trash it in a garbage can.

Good luck finding my busted laptop and the worthless data inside of it.

Writing this out has made me realize I may have watched one too many Mission Impossible movies. I’m not that important where someone would ever need to try to steal my laptop. Besides, I really have nothing to hide — really!

But if you just don’t feel safe for whatever reason (sometimes you just can’t shake off paranoia) and having these measures gives you some kind of calm, you do you. It works for me. 

You may think you don’t need a burner Chromebook. But it sure helps me sleep better at night.

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