Google Backtracks on Chrome Auto Sign-Ins

Posted on September 26, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 15 Comments

Google has released an overly-glib public explanation for why it silently started forcing users to sign-in to Chrome. And it will now do what it should have done in the first place: Be clearer in the browser about what’s happening and provide people with a way to disable this behavior.

“We’ve heard—and appreciate—your feedback,” Google product manager Zach Koch writes in a post to the Google Chrome blog. “We deeply appreciate all of the passionate users who have engaged with us on this. Chrome is a diverse, worldwide community, and we’re lucky to have users who care as much as you do. Keep the feedback coming.”


Anyway, as you may recall, Google found itself in yet another privacy controversy when it silently began automatically signing-in users to Chrome when they signed-in to any Google web service. I described this action as an inexcusable and “sneaky breach of trust.” And I openly wondered whether the company would just explain why it did what it did or whether it would actually fix the problem.

Turns out they kind of did both.

“We want to be clear that this change to sign-in does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on,” Google explains. “Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as turning on sync.”

The new UI, Google says, is there only to remind users that they are signed in to a specific Google account. But with so many complaining about this behavior, the firm will now include a new feature in Chrome version 70—due in mid-October—that will let users turn off auto sign-in to the browser.

Google is also updating its user interfaces to indicate whether you are syncing settings with your Google account.

All’s well that ends well? I guess so. But Google’s inability to do the right thing proactively is a problem. And I don’t find this explanation to be particularly satisfactory: The changes it will make in Chrome 70 should have been how this happened in the first place.


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