Note: I have renamed this topic to be a collection of all privacy-related worries surrounding Google.
Recent changes to Google Chrome cause huge uproar in tech community!
With the release of Chrome version 69, Google has introduced some changes - without announcing them - that have caused a huge outrage on HN (Hacker News, the small, high-quality social netwerk for Silicon Valley and techies around the world), because they have serious privacy implications.
The outrage started with publication on HN of Tell HN: Using Gmail? You will be force logged into Chrome which was followed by this article:
The subsequent HN comment thread contains more than 800 comments discussing the changes.
It basically boils down to this (Note that I am paraphrasing from the article, written by Matthew Green):
“Chrome has fundamentally changed the sign-in experience. From now on, every time you log into a Google property (for example, Gmail), Chrome will automatically sign the browser into your Google account for you. It’ll do this without asking, or even explicitly notifying you. (However, and this is important: Google developers claim this will not actually start synchronizing your data to Google — yet.)”
The change has serious implications for privacy and trust
[The problems with this change are:]
- User consent matters
- The Chrome sync UI is a dark pattern
- Big brother doesn’t need to actually watch you [the change will lead to self-censorship]
- There are privacy implications even if sync is off
As a result the techies make plans to ditch Chrome en masse. The tech community is also speculating about the reasons for this change. Multiple options are discussed:
The Chrome team honestly wanted to improve the user experience (UX) to avoid confusion in prior browser version with logging into the browser vs. your Google (cloud-based) account, and didn’t realise the implications
Google is acting as the monopolist similar to how Microsoft dealt with Internet Explorer in the past
- Google doesn’t mind losing some small percentage of tech-savvy users, because the majority of its user base doesn’t care about privacy and won’t even notice the change
- In addition losing users who switch to other browsers will help Google make the case that they are not a monopolist
- Lots of discussion on whether Google has become ‘evil’, or not (I leave you to your opinion on this)
Whatever the real reasons, Google has lost a lot of love in the tech community and this will have an impact. Furthermore the change may be a good case for a GDPR lawsuit:
Which is also discussed broadly on Hacker News.
And then there are the discussion on how to mitigate these changes, or choose the best alternatives to Google Chrome:
- Ask HN: Best alternative to Gmail (500+ comments, mostly discussing Fastmail)
- Disable Google Chrome Sign-in and Sync (and the HN discussion)
- HN discussion about using ungoogled-chromium instead of chrome
Personally I am a very happy Firefox user for some time, so I read this from a distance, but I found it important to let you all know about these changes. Make up your own mind whether or not you’ll continue to use Chrome and Gmail in the future
Edit: The sage continues: Chrome 69 will keep Google Cookies when you tell it to delete all cookies and also does not seem to clear localStorage where tracker data often resides.