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Google deals with fallout over Chrome auto sign-in

Issuing time:2018-09-30 10:37

Google will try to tamp down blowback from linking log-ins of its services with Chrome by adding an option to disable the automatic sign-in, the company said Wednesday.

The change will debut in Chrome 70, now slated to ship the week of Oct. 14-20. "While we think sign-in consistency will help many of our users, we're adding a control that allows users to turn off linking web-based sign-in with browser-based sign-in," Zach Koch, a Chrome senior product manager, wrote in a Sept. 26 post to a company blog.

Koch cited user feedback as the trigger for the upcoming change to Chrome. "We deeply appreciate all of the passionate users who have engaged with us on this," he said.

Passionate may have been an understatement of the reaction to alterations Google made to Chrome 69, the build released Sept. 4.

For example, Matthew Green, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a well-known cryptographer and privacy expert, titled his latest blog post, "Why I'm done with Chrome" to show his displeasure with version 69. "Due to Chrome's new user-unfriendly forced login policy ... I won't be using it going forward," Green wrote.

His objection and that of others was because, as of Chrome 69, signing into any Google service automatically also signed the user into Chrome. Logging into one's Gmail account, for example, would also log the user into his or her Google account when Chrome opened. (That was the case whether a user had accessed Gmail using Chrome or another browser, like Firefox or Safari.) There was no overt notification that the user was auto-signed into Chrome.

The primary reason to log into Chrome is so that data on that device - bookmarks, passwords and the like - can be shared with Chrome on other devices used by the same person. Chrome calls that Sync, short for synchronization, a long-held feature and one that all browsers boast.

Some users don't want any of their data, such as browsing history, sent to Google's servers, even if that lets them share their data between multiple devices. To them - and others - signing in here and having Chrome automatically log in there was unacceptable, in large part because they believed that once signed into Chrome, data escaped their control and headed toward Mountain View's servers.

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