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Now Chrome registers users without their consent and Google is critical for it

Security experts are up in arms over an update to Google’s Chrome browser that they say undermines user privacy. And now Chrome registers users without their consent. The problem is complex, but revolves around how and when people choose to log in to the Chrome browser (which is different from signing in to Google services, like Gmail). In previous versions of the browser, this was a voluntary step. Doing so means users can sync information such as bookmarks, passwords, and browsing history between devices; a feature that Google calls «Chrome Sync«. It also means that your user data is stored on Google servers, something some people are unhappy about.

Chrome logs users without their consent

With Chrome 69, the latest version of the browser, every time someone signs in to a Google service like Gmail or YouTube; now also log inn automatically in Chrome. This, critics say, is a backdoor change that will push people to involuntarily share more data with Google.

Criticism of the update has been bubbling all weekend, with Chrome engineer and manager Adrienne Porter Felt explaining the change on Twitter.

This new update also complicates things for someone using a shared laptop; This leaves a Google service like Gmail and thinks it’s also signed out of Chrome. If they haven’t, the next user could have access to your data stored in the browser.

Felt also points out that a user’s automatic registration in Chrome does not mean that their personal data is automatically shared with Google. For this to happen, Chrome Sync must be enabled separately.

Chrome logs users without their consent, is it good or bad?

Matthew Green, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, was one of the first to outline the problem in a blog post this weekend. Green says that even though Chrome Sync doesn’t turn on automatically, the end effect is still to encourage users to share more data.

«This change has huge implications for user privacy and trustand Google seems incapable of dealing with this,” Green writes.

This, Green says, is because the option to turn on Chrome Sync is a “dark pattern,” a term for UI tricks that websites and apps use; to encourage people to take certain actions. By automatically signing you in to Chrome, Google removed some of the friction of sharing your data.

When Google first introduced its browser, it shook the entire market. It broke Microsoft’s dominance, promoted open source standards, and pushed the broader industry to up its game. Changes like this, however, are fodder for critics who say Google is slowly turning Chrome from a neutral platform in something designed to push people towards Google services; and the Google way of doing things.

Others may disagree or simply accept that Chrome is Google’s browser and the company can ultimately do whatever it wants with it. There are ways to disable the automatic login process, and for those, like Green, who have had enough, there are always other options.

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