Chrome may not be keeping all your personal data private

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With users growing increasingly concerned about protecting their privacy online, Google has added a setting to Chrome that allow users to clear cookies and site data when they exit the browser. 

However, one programmer has recently discovered that while this setting wipes personal data from other sites, it doesn't do so for Google's own sites and services. 

Jeff Johnson provided further details on his discovery in a new blog post that shows how the browser clears cookies and site data for other sites but not for Google Search or YouTube

While Chrome did delete the cookies left in Johnson's browser after quitting and relaunching YouTube, other site data including the database storage, local storage and service workers were still stored on his system. Johnson then repeated his tests using Google Search which sets some cookies and local storage. He found that after quitting Chrome and relaunching Google Search that the cookies it created had been deleted but the local storage was still there.

Clear cookies and site data error

Most users are likely familiar with the way in which websites use cookies to identify them and store some of their online preferences. Site data is a bit different though as it includes a storage database where a site can store personal information about users on their computers. So while you can delete cookies or prevent Chrome from storing them, site data stored on your computer will be accessed the next time you visit a site and it could be used to identify you online.

For users concerned about being tracked by Chrome by the browser failing to wipe site data from YouTube and Google Search, thankfully there is a workaround.

According to Johnson, users can bypass this by adding YouTube as well as Google Search to Chrome's list of “Sites that can never use cookies” in the browser's settings. This will prevent both services from storing data on your computer that could be used to track you.

Still though, the fact that cookies and site data are cleared from third-party sites and not Google's own services is a bit perplexing which led Johnson to wonder whether this is just a bug as opposed to an intentional behavior.

In its report on the matter, The Register shared Johnson's concerns which is why the news outlet reached out to Google and a company spokesperson provided the following statement on the issue, which reads:

"We are aware of a bug in Chrome that is impacting how cookies are cleared on some first-party Google websites. We are investigating the issue, and plan to roll out a fix in the coming days."

If you can't wait for Google's upcoming fix, you can always use Johnson's workaround to prevent Google Search and YouTube from saving site data.

Via The Register

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.