For Google, a bit of backtracking.
In the wake of controversy over its Chrome browser that dominated headlines this week, the search giant has said it will change some of the ways the web browser operates.
Concerns had been raised this week over how the company tracks users via Chrome. As had been reported via The Verge and other sites, security experts and industry observers had criticized the company for automatically forcing users to log into the Chrome browser if they signed into Gmail or other services. According to the tech site, that comes on top of what users “typically” do when signing into Chrome if they sync bookmarks or browsing history between devices.
“While Google claims sync isn’t automatically enabled, the change has been interpreted as a method to trick users into inadvertently sharing more data,” said the report.
Google’s response came through a blog post by Google’s Zach Koch, Chrome product manager, on Sept. 26.
In that post, which was titled “Product updates based on your feedback,” Koch wrote that the firm was making some changes to Chrome to be featured in its latest iteration, Chrome 70, slated for October of this year. The company will add a feature that lets users disable that automatic sign in – yet, as The Verge noted, the sign-in is still the default setting.
Google is also changing its sync user interface to communicate users’ sync states. “We want to be clearer about your sign-in state and whether or not you’re syncing data to your Google Account,” said the blog. The update also means that the sync UI will tell users when they are syncing data tied to passwords, browsing history and credit cards to their respective Google accounts, and clear cookies upon signing out.
The post comes just days after reports that Google Chrome may have been tracking user activity without their knowledge, as users had previously been able to use Chrome without logging in. Yet changes highlighted by media and security experts found that login to Chrome took place automatically upon signing into services such as the mail function.
The Chrome controversy comes a month after a study from Vanderbilt University found that Android phones collect about 10 times more data than Apple iOS. The data collection, said the study, can be done without users’ knowledge, and even when a browsing session is done “incognito."