Backlash sees change in Chrome login and Google account behaviour

Chrome 70 will see some changes to how it handles users logged into its browser versus those logged into its websites.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
(Image: Google)

Google is set to change, once again, the way its Chrome browser handles users signed into its browser and how that works with Google Account sign-ins.

The changes are due once Chrome 70 appears in mid October, and come as users begin to process the changes Google made in the latest release of Chrome 69 on September 5.

At the start of the week, it was noticed that Google had unified the behaviour of its previous disparate Google account and Chrome account -- meaning that when a user signed into Chrome, they were automatically signed into Google websites with that account, or when a user wasn't signed into Chrome, but logged into a Google site, they were automatically signed into Chrome.

Google said at the time that one of the reasons for making this change was to prevent instances such as: When someone signs into Gmail using another person's signed-in Chrome session, that Chrome user could potentially have cookies for the Gmail session and Google account left behind, which could then be uploaded to Google and synced between that user's other Chrome instances.

Due to a lack of communication, this change was called out as a dark UI pattern, and accusations appeared on social media that Chrome was automatically turning on its Sync service to capture a user's browsing history and other settings.

"We want to be clear that this change to sign-in does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on. Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as turning on sync," Chrome product manager Zach Koch said about the Chrome 69 changes. "The new UI reminds users which Google Account is signed in.

"We think these UI changes help prevent users from inadvertently performing searches or navigating to websites that could be saved to a different user's synced account."

(Image: Google)

Starting with Chrome 70, though, Google will add a control to allow users to restore the separation of the Chrome and Google account logins, as well as updating Chrome's interface to make it clearer when its Sync service is enabled.

Chrome 70 will also respond to concerns of Chrome keeping Google authentication cookies, despite users thinking they had cleared all cookies stored in the browser.

"In the current version of Chrome, we keep the Google auth cookies to allow you to stay signed in after cookies are cleared," Koch wrote. "We will change this behavior that so all cookies are deleted and you will be signed out."

September has not been Google's greatest month for Chrome decision making. A fortnight ago, Google made a 180-degree turn on the decision to remove the www and m subdomains from URLs in Chrome's address bar.

"In Chrome M69, we rolled out a change to hide special-case subdomains 'www' and 'm' in the Chrome omnibox. After receiving community feedback about these changes, we have decided to roll back these changes in M69 on Chrome for Desktop and Android," Chrome product manager Emily Schechter said at the time.

Schechter added that Chrome 70 would return to hiding www from its users, but not the m subdomain.

"We plan to initiate a public standardisation discussion with the appropriate standards bodies to explicitly reserve 'www' or 'm' as special case subdomains under-the-hood," Schechter said.

"We do not plan to standardise how browsers should treat these special cases in their UI. We plan to revisit the 'm' subdomain at a later date, after having an opportunity to discuss further with the community."

A number of Windows users also complained that Chrome 69 had issues with fonts appearing blurry, and rolling back to Chrome 68 solved the problem.

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