If you use Google Chrome, you might not have noticed that version 69 introduced a controversial change that Google conveniently failed to inform you about. This significant change allows Chrome to use your login information to automatically sign in to Chrome’s built-in local user account in order to synchronize your profile data among all Google services. It’s called “Identity Consistency”. Simply logging in to your Gmail account, for example, would automatically log you in to Chrome’s local user account in order to synchronize offline and online data, or to synchronize data among all Google services. This can, in many instances, be a useful feature.
But many people complained that this was a major privacy and security issue. For one thing, if you share your computer with another user, just opening Chrome would give them access to all of your Google Apps, and it would make their online activities while using Chrome look like yours, making it part of your Web use profile.
This quiet change to the Chrome settings was recently revealed by Matthew Green, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University.
Chrome is the most widely used browser on the planet. Due to their unique position in the market place, Google has a wide-reaching and effective means of distributing their browser product which essentially assures it of browser dominance around the world. This has its advantages.
The primary advantage to having the dominant browser is that it enhances Google’s ability to track users across the Web, and promote their own services and distribute advertising for their business partners. By quietly logging you in to your Google accounts when using Chrome, Google could build a stronger profile of who you are and what you do when you’re online or using Google Apps and services such as Gmail, Photos, YouTube, etc.
Google claims that sharing all of your information between Apps will “personalize” your experience. To Google, of course, that’s a good thing. But many people are concerned about the extent to which Google tracks their Web habits, profiles them, and sells their data to the highest bidder to target you with advertising.
When Google received the backlash of this hidden “feature”, they immediately announced they would offer the option to turn it off in the Chrome Settings in a future version.
Version 70 of Google Chrome has now been released and it does allow users to disable the automatic sign-in feature. Unless you have good reason to leave it enabled, and you understand the consequences, I recommend that you disable automatic account sign-in via the Chrome Settings.
There are other options, too. The one I suggest is switching to Mozilla’s Firefox. Firefox has been building in significant privacy enhancements that give users far more control over their online browsing privacy. Developer versions of Firefox already in testing have more new built-in anti-tracking features that will soon come to the stable release version.
It’s your privacy. Protect it.
If you wish to stay with Google Chrome, but want to disable automatic sign-in to Google accounts and services, you should be sure to update Chrome to version 70, then use the instructions below to disable it.
Disable Automatic Sign-in
- Access Chrome Settings by clicking on the “three vertical dots” icon in the top-right corner of the browser window
- Find and click the Settings option in the menu
- On the settings page, scroll down and click Advanced
- In Privacy and Security, find “Allow Chrome sign-in”, and click the switch on the right to change the setting and disable it
5. Chrome will then display a message asking you to relaunch Chrome to activate the new setting. Click Relaunch
Once you complete the change, you should also clear all cookies using the clear browsing data option in the Advanced settings.
If you find that the “Allow Chrome Sign-in” option is grayed out, it is likely because you are already signed in to your Chrome browser’s local user account. Just sign out of Chrome and/or other Google accounts, and try the above instructions again.