Fedora preemptively turns off Chromium usage of private Google Sync APIs

Maintainer recommends if users want an open source browser that isn't 'hobbled', they should use Firefox.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Fedora has jumped seven weeks before Google ends the Linux distribution's use of the Google Chrome Sync service within the Chromium browser.

The Sync service allows users to keep data such as browser history, login details, and bookmarks synced between different devices.

Earlier this month, Google said it completed an audit, and was restricting the open source version of Chrome from accessing those APIs "that are only intended for Google's use".

Notifying Fedora users over the weekend, Chromium maintainer for the distribution Tom Callaway said the change will make the program "significantly less functional".

"There is no good reason for Google to do this, other than to force people to use Chrome," Callaway said.

"I would say that you might want to reconsider whether you want to use Chromium or not. If you want the full 'Google' experience, you can run the proprietary Chrome. If you want to use a FOSS browser that isn't hobbled, there is a Firefox package in Fedora."

Callaway added he had thought about giving away the maintainer mantle, but decided not to, at the moment, in order to prevent someone else starting over and running into the same issue.

"It is noteworthy that Google gave the builders of distribution Chromium packages these access rights back in 2013 via API keys, specifically so that we could have open source builds of Chromium with (near) feature parity to Chrome. And now they're taking it away," he added.

"They're not closing a security hole, they're just requiring that everyone use Chrome."

To that end though, by closing off the service, Fedora is able to fix 26 security vulnerabilities. Version 88.0.4324.96-1 of Fedora Chromium will be the first to have Sync disabled, and landed as an update in repositories over the weekend.

Google said it would be locking down access to the Sync service on March 15. Some Chromium-based browsers do offer a non-Google sync solution.

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