Google backtracks on new controversial Chrome feature


Google has vowed to backtrack on a new feature in Chrome 69 after users raised concerns over privacy and unwanted data collection.

In version 69 of Google’s Chrome browser, Chrome automatically signed users into the browser after they logged into Google services. This meant that, by signing into YouTube or Gmail, a user would then be logged into the Chrome browser too. Google’s stance was that it would make everything a little more seamless.

However, that’s not how users saw it. The concern was that this automatic sign-in function meant that data was being uploaded to Google’s servers without their knowledge, as they hadn’t specifically given permission to let it sign them in.

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Google explained that, just because it was signing users into Chrome automatically, this didn’t mean it was tracking them or uploading data to any servers.

Despite this, users still believed it to be an attempt to harvest data without it gaining explicit consent to do so. Ultimately, Google caved and will address the issue in its next Chrome update. The remedy, coming in the next version of Chrome, is a new feature called “Allow Chrome Sign In” that allows you to control whether signing into a Google service also signs you into Chrome.

The company accepted that it may be confusing for users when sharing their devices with other users, as they may assume they’re signed out of Chrome when actually, they’re not, potentially giving others access to their logins that have been saved on devices.

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Another issue Chrome users surfaced with Google is that not all Cookies are deleted when you opt to clear your browser history. At present, it won’t sign you out of your Google account, meaning anyone could potentially access your search history, Gmail and other Google-related features.

Although not directly related to privacy and data concerns Chrome version 70 (due to launch in October) will include a new design to highlight whether you’re signed into Chrome and your Google accounts and data syncing status. It will introduce three new states: signed out, signed in and not syncing data, and signed in and syncing, and also a feature that wipes authorisation for cookie sharing once a user logs out of their account.

“We deeply appreciate all of the passionate users who have engaged with us on this,” Zach Koch, Chrome product manager said. “Chrome is a diverse, worldwide community, and we’re lucky to have users who care as much as you do.”

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