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Google Changes Privacy Settings In Chrome, Sparks Outrage Among Users

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In yet another sneaky move by tech giant Google, a change to the privacy setting in Chrome is sparking outrage by users of the browser.

On Sunday, a security and cryptography researcher from Johns Hopkins University blogger, Matthew Green, wrote about the change Google has secretly made as part of the browser’s latest update, Chrome 69. Green explained in his “Why I’m done with Chrome” blog that when people now log in to Gmail, YouTube, or any of the companies other properties, they will also be automatically logged into Chrome at the same time.

Green goes on to explain why he believes this matters, from his perspective:

  1. Nobody on the Chrome development team can provide a clear rationale for why this change was necessary, and the explanations they’ve given don’t make any sense.
  2. This change has enormous implications for user privacy and trust, and Google seems unable to grapple with this.
  3. The change makes a hash out of Google’s own privacy policies for Chrome.
  4. Google needs to stop treating customer trust like it’s a renewable resource, because they’re screwing up badly.

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Google responded to the growing controversy, some of which could be seen on the discussion board Hacker News, where it was heavily debated.

Chrome engineer and manager, Afrienne Porter Felt, in a series of tweets on Monday confirmed that Google had indeed changed their login procedures. She went on to stress that although users are logged in to Chrome, they must still consent to a sync before their data can be transferred to Google.

“Hi all, I want to share more info about recent changes to Chrome sign-in. Chrome desktop now tells you that you’re “signed in” whenever you’re signed in to a Google website. This does NOT mean that Chrome is automatically sending your browsing history to your Google account! 1/”

“In the new version of Chrome: when you sign in or out of a Google website, Chrome UI shows your sign-in status in the top right corner. 2/”

“My teammates made this change to prevent surprises in a shared device scenario. In the past, people would sometimes sign out of the content area and think that meant they were no longer signed into Chrome, which could cause problems on a shared device. 3/”

“The new UI clearly reminds you whenever you’re logged in to a Google account. Plus, you now only need to sign out in one place before you share your computer with someone else. 4/”

“If you want to turn on Sync, it’s an additional step after you’re signed in. Sync uploads your browsing history to Google so you can access it across devices. Sign-in by itself does NOT do that. 5/”

“To reiterate, signing in does NOT turn on Chrome Sync. The Chrome Help Center and Chrome White Paper have up-to-date details about this change. My colleagues are updating the Chrome privacy notice ASAP to make this more clear 6/6″

Green believes that it was “nuts” for Google to suggest their users are safe because of the sync-consent page.

Green wrote: “If you didn’t respect my lack of consent on the biggest user-facing privacy option in Chrome (and didn’t even notify me that you had stopped respecting it!) why should I trust any other consent option you give me?”

“Google’s reputation is hard-earned, and it can be easily lost,” Green wrote. “Changes like this burn a lot of trust with users. If the change is solving an absolutely critical problem for users , then maybe a loss of trust is worth it. I wish Google could convince me that was the case.”

 

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