Google u-turns on 'auto sign in' and cookie collection after backlash


Google has vowed to stop automatically signing users into Chrome when they sign into Google services after users raised concerns over privacy and unwanted data collection.

Version 69 of the Chrome browser introduced a feature that automatically signed users into their profile inside browser whenever they also signed into other Google services, such as Gmail or Youtube. The concern was that this function meant user data was being uploaded to Google's servers without their knowledge as they hadn't specifically given permission with a sign in.

The company explained that just because it was signing users into Chrome automatically, this didn't mean it was tracking users or uploading any user data to servers it was just an attempt to give customers easy access to Google services, without having to log into each individually.

However, users saw this less like a helpful feature and more as an attempt to harvest user data without gaining explicit consent to do so. Ultimately, Google caved and has said it will address the concerns in its next update.

Google will be adding a feature called 'Allow Chrome Sign In' as part of Chrome 70 that will allow you to control whether signing into a Google service also signs you into Chrome. The company accepted that it may be confusing for users when sharing their devices with other users, as they may assume they're signed out of Chrome when actually, they're not, potentially giving others access to their logins that have been saved on devices.

Another issue Chrome users surfaced with Google is that not all Cookies are deleted when you opt to clear your browser history. At present, it won't sign you out of your Google account, meaning anyone could potentially access your search history, Gmail and other Google-related features.

Although not directly related to privacy and data concerns Chrome version 70 (due to launch in October) will include a new design to highlight whether you're signed into Chrome and your Google accounts and data synching status. It will introduce three new states: signed out, signed in and not syncing data, and signed in and syncing, and also a feature that wipes authorisation for cookie sharing once a user logs out of their account.

"We deeply appreciate all of the passionate users who have engaged with us on this," Zach Koch, Chrome product manager said. "Chrome is a diverse, worldwide community, and we're lucky to have users who care as much as you do."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.