How to escape Google’s forced logins on Chrome 69

Alonzo Simpson
September 24, 2018

Before version 69, one could use the Chrome web browser without logging into any Google account for whatever reason. That leads users to believe that Chrome 69's forced login policy is sharing user data with Google.

Quietly included in the browser's most recent update, Chrome's latest affront to user privacy is a new policy that forces users to sign the browser into their account the next time the login to a Google service such as Gmail.

In a nutshell, the situation is that Chrome used to allow users to skip through the World Wide Web without needing to sign into Google's browser services.

Nearly all users who never used Chrome's Sync feature before might find it surprising that they are logged into Chrome right now, as they read this article, if they've also logged into a Google account somewhere on Gmail, YouTube, or any other service. Matthew Green, a well-known cryptography expert and professor at Johns Hopkins University, pointed out in a blog post today that Google has also redesigned the Sync account interface in a way that it is not clear anymore to users when they are logged in or what button they should push to start syncing.

But a number of security professionals simply weren't buying it.

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I understand where Green is coming from, particularly after he clicked no for so long. Sure, in return for signing into Chrome and (optionally) selecting what should be synchronised to Mountain View's servers (including browsing history), users might find things a bit more convenient, but it wasn't mandatory.

Additionally, Green makes the case that if this was such a positive fix to a major issue, Google would have presented it publicly along with all the other new features and changes. This is a dark pattern. There is an extra step required to turn on Chrome Sync.

People working at Google have apparently claimed that this feature was created to help avoid complications when someone is logged into Chrome, and another person uses that browser to log in to their own Google account when visiting a Google website.

Moreover, the fearless browser has also been earning platitudes from professional reviewers, including Popular Science, as a viable alternative to Chrome and Safari. "Whether intentional or not, it has the effect of making it easy for people to activate sync without knowing it, or to think they're already syncing and thus there's no additional cost to increasing Google's access to their data".

In one tweet, she confirmed that Google has changed the login procedures. There's certainly truth to both.

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