While Chrome 69, the latest version of Google’s popular web browser, brings some welcome changes, it also looks like it now signs you into the browser automatically when you sign in to Google websites and services, which then uploads your browsing history, as well as other information, to Google.
In previous versions of Chrome you could visit Gmail, YouTube or other Google websites and log into them without needing to be logged into the browser as well. While signing into your Google account in Chrome brings benefits, such as synchronizing your bookmarks and passwords, there are a number of privacy reasons why you’d want to keep that information stored locally on your PC, rather than share it with Google.
It also means if you’re using a shared computer to quickly browse the internet and check your emails in Gmail, you’ll want to make extra precautions to ensure that you are fully logged out when you’re finished.
This move is another step Google has taken in blurring the boundaries between its software and its services, and many people are understandably concerned.
According to a blog post titled “Chrome is a Google Service that happens to include a browser engine”, when members of the security community noticed this change and raised it with Google, they were told that this is intended behaviour.
People working at Google have apparently claimed that this feature was designed 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.
If you’re a regular user of Google’s services, and are logged into Chrome anyway, then this change probably won’t worry you too much. However, if you don’t like the idea of Google’s increasing data collection about your online habits, then it may be time to think about switching to a more secure web browser.
It’s worth noting that passwords and bookmarks aren’t synced by default when you’re signed in automatically to Chrome 69, but that might not be enough to allay people’s security fears.
If you want to make sure your web browsing history is not uploaded, open up Chrome's Settings page, and underneath your user name you'll see 'Sync'. Click that, then turn off everything you don't want syncing online, including your browsing history.