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Security & privacy

You can opt out of Google Chrome snafu

Many people updated their Google Chrome recently, and one of its biggest changes had folks quite upset. The obvious changes, such as a subtle difference in its look and browsing experience, were likely met with mostly positive reviews.

But as noted, one change led to plenty of frustration and anger, and it is understandable as to why. Unlike previous versions of Chrome, the update (Chrome 69) forced anyone who was signed into a specific Google service to automatically log into the browser.

In other words, if you were logged into something like Gmail or YouTube, you would not be able to open up Chrome without also being signed into it. The idea of keeping your digital identities separate was disintegrated, and people were none too pleased.

It turns out Google wants us to be happy

Needless to say, Google heard from plenty of unhappy people, as the idea of being forced to log into Chrome just because you were using a different site or app goes against the concept of having control over your online life.

Knowing this, on Tuesday we even wrote about a way to stop it from happening. It was a bit clunky, sure, but effective.

But Google heard the complaints and decided to backtrack on the forced log-in. In Chrome 70, which will be the next update to come down, people will have the ability to easily disable the feature.

Unfortunately, it will be another month or so before Chrome 70 is released.

Fun Fact: Google Chrome was first released on September 2, 2008, and it is estimated that the browser has a 66 percent worldwide usage share of web browsers as a desktop browser.

Why were people so upset?

For many, signing into all our Google products at the same time is a pretty normal occurrence. Doing so makes it somewhat seamless to go from app to app and site to site, never having to input your information.

It’s Google Sync, and for some it is a helpful tool. Privacy concerns notwithstanding, it is kind of nice to just be logged into everything.

But sometimes you may not want that, and losing the ability to make the decision is not something anyone should be OK with.

But there are some who do not want their data being sent to Google’s servers, which unless you are logged in, would not happen. In the past, if you did not log into Chrome with a Google account, your browsing activity would only be stored locally on whatever device you were using.

Forcing people to log into Chrome would, of course, mean the data could then head over to Google. At least, that’s what privacy advocates were arguing, that the change would lead to Google Sync being activated without a user’s permission.

And save for a small icon in the upper-right hand corner, there would be no sign that you were logged in while browsing with Chrome.

Adrienne Porter Felt, a Chrome engineer, explained that the change was meant to “prevent surprises in a shared device scenario” in which one might sign out of a Google “content area” without realizing they were still logged into Chrome.

“The new UI clearly reminds you whenever you’re logged in to a Google account,” Felt added. “Plus, you now only need to sign out in one place before you share your computer with someone else.”

That seems reasonable, right? But what it really boils down to is whether or not we trust Google, who admitted they need to communicate their changes better.

Check out Kim’s Consumer Tech Update podcast below about Google and whether or not we trust them.

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