4 February, 2023

Chrome Allows Google, YouTube to Store User Data Even If You Want to Delete it, Claims Developer

Google has reportedly confirmed the issue it says is caused by a bug in its Chrome browser.

Google continues to track you even if you explicitly instruct it not to, an independent software developer has claimed. The issue seems to be with Google Chrome’s storing of cookies and site data on a user’s device. Even if Chrome has been set to automatically delete all cookies and site data upon closing the browser, it allegedly retains site data from Google’s own websites while wiping down everything else. This would mean that the search-giant grants itself the liberty to store and access users’ data without their knowledge.

Jeff Johnson highlighted the issue in a blog post last week. He shared detailed screenshots that apparently show that Chrome had awarded a contentious exception to google.com and youtube.com, allowing them to store and access user information — at least on macOS — even after the browser was set to automatically delete cookies and site data on closing. Cookies and site data allow websites to store information about users on their devices and access it when they visit the websites again.

While he gave Google the benefit of doubt and said that it could be a bug in Google Chrome, he mentioned that the exception only applies to Google websites and not, for instance, apple.com, raising doubts about Google’s handling of user data and the undue advantage its products gain from it. Google has reportedly confirmed to The Register that the company was aware of the issue caused by a “bug” within Google Chrome and that it will be rolling out a fix in the “coming days”.

Till that comes through, Johnson has offered a workaround for users who are more concerned about their privacy than others. And it’s not switching to Safari or Firefox instead. He said that the issue can be resolved by adding google.com and youTube.com to an exception list in settings. It can be accessed by clicking on the options menu on the top right corner of your Chrome browser on your computer. From there, you can navigate to Settings > Privacy and security > Cookies and other site data > Sites that never use cookies, add the two websites to the list, and save the changes.

This is not the first time Google has been accused of bypassing user preferences on its products. A 2018 Associated Press investigation claimed that Google continued to track the whereabouts of Android users even if they had turned off location tracking on their devices. Google is currently facing multiple lawsuits around data privacy.