With the DoJ launching a case against Google, you would think that the company will make sure that it does not slip up. However, it looks like it have, and it’s slipped up pretty bad. If you tuned in for the Congress meeting earlier this month, Sundar Pichai made it a point to reiterate that Google automatically deletes users’ data after a while, and that users themselves can choose to delete it whenever they want. However, it looks like that isn’t working.
Users can ask Chrome to automatically clear cookies and site data when they exit the browser, and for the most part, the feature does its job. Well, except it won’t clear site data collected by Google.com and YouTube.com. This is a strange bug in Google’s Chrome browser which allows Google to track its users even when they don’t want it to. The bug was first documented by the iOS developer Jeff Johnson in Chrome version 86.0.4240.75.
Johnson observed that the local data for Google.com and YouTube.com persisted even after restarting the browser even when the ‘clear data on exit’ option is enabled. What’s strange about this behavior is that cookies and site data is perfectly being cleared for all the other websites except for these two Google websites.
Site data can contain sensitive personal user information, and other data often stored to increase performance of the website when the user revisits it. Cookies, on the other hand, track user activity and sometimes store login information.
The bug appears to have been partially fixed in the latest Chrome release (version 86.0.4240.111). YouTube.com’s data is now being properly cleared but Google.com’s data still persists.
Google, in a statement, said that they are working on a fix: “We are investigating the issue, and plan to roll out a fix in the coming days.” Google is also planning to get rid of third-party cookies entirely, but this won’t happen for two more years.
VPNs are tending and privacy concerns are on the rise as more and more users become aware of how their data is being handled. A bug like this can make people suspicious about Google, which has already come under the radar for how it tracks their users everywhere. Meanwhile, the US Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of having a monopoly over the search market, which Google ridiculed today.
Privacy focused browsers appear to be gaining traction, and search engines like DuckDuckGo have become a household name for privacy-concerned users. The browser market which was once all about speed and shiny features has suddenly become all about privacy and anonymity. Google will have to be a lot more careful if it plans to keep its users trust in place.