Google’s recent Chrome 69 update is frustrating users, particularly those wanting more control over their security.
In what has been called a dark pattern by other developers online, Google Chrome’s latest version gets people to log into Chrome automatically. The general outcry from developers about this change is in regards to user safety. Developers fear it's Google having yet another way to more accurately track user movement -- even when the user doesn't expect it.
Discovering the Google Chrome issue
The most recent Chrome 69 released earlier this month, and it has a very different look than previous iterations of the browser. However, one major difference doesn’t come directly from the design. If users tap into a Google service like Docs or Gmail, they’ll be signed into Chrome automatically.
The decision was hotly contested on sites like Hacker News and Twitter among developers and UX professionals.
Johns Hopkins University professor Matthew Green was one of the loudest voices against the Google Chrome update. Green, a cryptographer by trade, realized what was happening and blasted Google, the "Sync" feature, and Google developers' decision on his blog.
Green contended on a blog post titled "Why I'm Done with Chrome" that he consistently refused to allow an automatic sign in from Chrome. He simply didn't want his browser history sent to Google or linked to his usage and other Google-related accounts.
But then suddenly, he was no longer given an opt-in for signing into Chrome.
"If you didn't respect my lack of consent on the biggest user-facing privacy option in Chrome (and didn't even notify me that you had stopped respecting it!) why should I trust any other consent option you give me?" Green wrote. "What stops you from changing your mind on that option in a few months, when we've all stopped paying attention?"
Green also said the phrasing for users was ambiguous. Google asks only if users want to sync their data, but the company doesn't say what will happen to that data in the long run.
How Google responded to user concerns
The company redirects the conversation about this issue back to their user guidelines if anyone has concerns.
However, Google Chrome's product manager Adrienne Porter Felt took to Twitter to further explain Google's decision.
My teammates made this change to prevent surprises in a shared device scenario. In the past, people would sometimes sign out of the content area and think that meant they were no longer signed into Chrome, which could cause problems on a shared device. 3/— Adrienne Porter Felt (@__apf__) September 24, 2018
She also reiterated that signing into Google Chrome does not turn on Chrome Sync.
If you want to turn on Sync, it's an additional step after you're signed in. Sync uploads your browsing history to Google so you can access it across devices. Sign-in by itself does NOT do that. https://t.co/t2pPjiqkVe 5/— Adrienne Porter Felt (@__apf__) September 24, 2018
"The new UI clearly reminds you whenever you're logged into a Google account," Porter Felt explained on a Twitter thread. "Plus, you now only need to sign out of one place before you share your computer with someone else."
Regardless of Google's decision to update Google Chrome, anyone uncomfortable with the new update can check the Google Support pages. Green also provided further insights in his blog about his Google Chrome frustrations.