New Google chrome update flags a new concern with privacy

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Google has introduced a new update to Chrome, and with it a new type of privacy concern.  The update, known as ‘Chrome 80’, enables deep links to web documents, through implementing a new browser capability called ScrollToTextFragment. This feature also allows for Google the link to a single word of text on the page, with its position.

Google does do this already, but to do so, the capability needed to be dependant on an anchor which was created by the owner of the site. ScrollToTextFragment allows for a link to a specific location within a text document to be created by anyone, as ScrollToTextFeature does not require an anchor to do so.

 

Sounds great, what’s the problem?

As useful as this feature is, there are growing concerns that ScrollToTextFragment can be exploited in terms of privacy. These concerns aren’t new either. Prior to the release of Chrome 80, there was a lot of questions raised around privacy issues, however Google still went ahead with its release.

Prior to its release, David Baron from Mozilla had stated:

“My high-level opinion here is that this a really valuable feature, but it might also be one where all of the possible solutions have major issues/problems. So, I think the question we should think about is how the problems of the solution chosen here compare to the problems of other options and how they compare to the value of the feature.”

 

However, despite concerns of personal information becoming accessible, Chromium engineer David Bokan has addressed these concerns, stating that these security issues were bought up before, but it was ultimately decided that the ScrollToTextFragment would be released without an opt-in option available. However, an opt-out option may become available in the future.

“. We discussed this and other issues with our security team and, to summarize, we understand the issue but disagree on the severity so we’re proceeding with allowing this without requiring opt-in (though we are still working on adding an opt in/out).”

The ScrollToTextFragment is now only available and supported by the Chrome browser.

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