Enforced Google logins in Chrome spark privacy concerns


The most recent update of Google's popular Chrome browser includes a policy change that makes privacy advocates uncomfortable: The browser automatically signs users in to Chrome if they use any other Google services. First covered by ZDNet, whenever a person logs in a Google-owned site like Gmail or YouTube, the browser will automatically log the user into the Google Chrome browser. Before, it said when you signed into Chrome your personal browser data is saved on Google's servers.

Matthew Green, a cryptocurrency professor at John Hopkins University was one of the first to spot the change, calling it a "user-unfriendly forced login policy" and approached Google for an explanation.

It has been discovered that when you try to clear all cookies in the Chrome browser, every cookie will be deleted except for authentication cookies created by Google.

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It means if you're using a shared computer to browse and check your emails in Gmail, you'll want to make extra precautions to ensure that you are fully logged out when you're finished.

When at least one clients would utilize a similar Chrome program, information from at least one clients would incidentally be sent to someone else's Google account. "If you want to turn on Sync, it's an additional step after you're signed in". With this update, Google can reportedly control user access to the web as Chrome is a powerful entry point for beginners.

And let's not forget, this is the same company that landed in hot water last month for tracking user location history even after users make it clear they don't want that to occur. "It has become like what Internet Explorer was about a decade ago where we used to have government websites which specifically asked users to 'use IE for better view'".

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The problem, if there is one, certainly comes from Google's lack of transparency about the change. But Google isn't seeing any more or less of his data now than before, and won't unless users opt in.

In that prompt, Google notifies users that the company will collect info from users' "bookmarks, passwords, history and more on all your devices..." However, the good news is, Google engineers have said that the new auto-login feature does not start the process of synchronising a user's local data to Google's servers and would require the user to enable it.

While Chrome browsing histories are not now synced to people's Google accounts, the fear is that this will happen in the near future and could become a major threat to privacy.

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Google changed its privacy policy over the weekend to reflect the fact that synchronization is only enabled if you explicitly choose it. He noted that the privacy document could be summarised "as a promise that if you aren't logged in, data will only be stored locally, and if you are logged in, all bets are off".