Google is quietly logging users into Chrome, but it's not all bad

Doris Richards
September 24, 2018

For years, Google has given Chrome users the option of surfing the web without logging in.

The change appeared in Chrome 69, which rolled out at the beginning of September and initially occupied users with the revolutionary/repulsive (delete as appropriate) rounded interface, which had been heavily trailed in the preceding months.

Google has made an important change to the way the Chrome browser works, a move the company did not advertise to its users in any way, and which has serious privacy repercussions.

Prior to this users had to consciously log into the browser, and users who were not logged in had their bookmarks, browser and other items stored only locally.

Adrienne explains that this feature was created to prevent people from staying logged in to Google services on shared computers. This allowed users to surf the web while logged into a Google account but not upload any Chrome browsing data to Google's servers, data that may be tied to their accounts.

In previous versions of Chrome you could visit Gmail, YouTube or other Google websites and log into them without needing to be logged into the browser as well.

Felt also explains that the reason Google decided to make this change was to put an end to any confusion users may have had when trying to sign out of public or shared devices.

But a number of security professionals simply weren't buying it.

Dismissing arguments that, if he wanted to keep using Google products he should expect privacy violations of this kind, Green said: "I reject this argument". This is a dark pattern. With settings options presented by a design and in a language Google sees fit, do Google Chrome users even know what they're really opting in for if they choose to opt-in to Sync?

Going a step further, security expert Bálint made the case that Google Chrome is essentially a Google service now as opposed to a separate application that can live on its own without being tied to a Google account.

The Chrome team at Google is now updating the browser's privacy notice to make the new sign-in process more clear to the users, Felt stated in her tweets.

The issue here is that there's no simple fix.

Moreover, the fearless browser has also been earning platitudes from professional reviewers, including Popular Science, as a viable alternative to Chrome and Safari. One blogger who broke down the change in detail wrote, "Google needs to stop treating customer trust like it's a renewable resource, because they're screwing up badly". There's certainly truth to both.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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