Mozilla warning! Google Chrome lets websites invade YOUR privacy
Google Chrome 94 allows websites to know when you’re actively using, or not using, your device, which has been criticised by Mozilla, the maker of Firefox browser, as it could allow websites to invade your privacy .
Google Chrome has received an update to version 94, adding new features and improvements along with security features in tow. Among the new features on Google Chrome 94 is the recently introduced application programming interface (API) for Idle Detection. This feature has been perceived as being too invasive and having a negative impact on user privacy. Now, Firefox browser creator Mozilla has criticised the feature, stating that Google Chrome Idle Detection API could allow websites to invade your privacy.
With over 60 percent of the market share on Windows and Android, the two largest platforms, Google Chrome is the most widely used browser in the world. With the arrival of Chrome 94 the Idle Detection API has been enabled on the browser, which allows websites to learn when you are using your PC and when you are not. The feature could come in handy for app developers and ad serving corporations who want to learn how their services and web apps are being used. However, it has raised privacy concerns, with Mozilla expressing concerns over how the feature will impact users, How-To Geek reports.
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Mozilla’s Web Standards Lead Tantek Çelik took to GitHub to explain that the new Ide Detection API should be labelled harmful and encouraged further development on simpler and less privacy-invasive methods of achieving the same goals. “As it is currently specified, I consider the Idle Detection API too tempting of an opportunity for surveillance capitalism motivated websites to invade an aspect of the user’s physical privacy, keep longterm records of physical user behaviours, discerning daily rhythms (e.g. lunchtime), and using that for proactive psychological manipulation (e.g. hunger, emotion, choice),” Çelik stated on GitHub.
According to the report, it wasn’t just Mozilla that expressed concern about the new Idle Detection API. The WebKit development team that works on the browser engine that powers Apple’s Safari, said it didn’t seem like there was “strong enough use case for this API” while pointing out that there was no guarantee that a user wouldn’t come back to the device. Similarly, users could be using other devices. “We’re definitely not going to let a website know all the devices a given user might be using at any given point. That’s a very serious breach of the said user’s privacy,” explained WebKit engineer Ryosuke Niwa.
While the news of this Google Chrome API is certainly something that could worry many users who care for their privacy, the silver lining is that the Idle Detection API that websites can plug into, can only be accessed after a website asks for permission. This means that a website like Facebook or Twitter will need to ask you for permission to “know when you’re actively using this device” which is optional and can be turned off. Users should still update their Google Chrome to make sure they have the latest security fixes for their browser, which will keep them safer as they browse the web.