Christian Stewart is a privacy researcher and reporter. Follow his latest coverage on YouTube.
This week’s issue with Google involves the latest Chrome update. Matthew Green, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, explains that Chrome is now automatically logging users into the browser if they log in to any other Google service.
So if you are using Chrome and sign into Gmail, for example, you are automatically signed into Chrome. This presents privacy issues of its own, but the fact that it’s done automatically and potentially without user knowledge makes it worse.
“It’ll do this without asking, or even explicitly notifying you.”
Logging in to any website or online service makes tracking you much easier. If you aren’t logged in, tracking involves more guess work and doesn’t link your activity to your name or email address. If you’re logged in though, not only can you more easily be tracked, all of the information can be linked directly to your profile.
If you log into Chrome it lets Google add all of your browsing history and search history on Google to your My Activity page.
Matthew Green’s post included:
While Chrome will now log into your Google account without your consent (following a Gmail login), Chrome will not activate the “sync” feature that sends your data to Google. That requires an additional consent step. So in theory your data should remain local.
Unfortunately with Google’s recent track record of very little transparency, it’s hard to know how Google uses your data. The company has billions of users, and has been using shady tactics to collect as much information as possible from them.
Data privacy is a big problem with Google — especially when Google itself is deceiving users into opting in to being tracked.
Rather than taking extensive measures to protect your data from Google, it’s probably simpler to just use different services. If you’ve been using Google’s products for a long time it may seem difficult, but there are plenty of reliable alternatives.
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