Saturday, June 27, 2015

No More Spying Software in Google’s Chromium Browser... Apparently

Following the recent complaints from software developers and privacy campaigners, the tech giant has pulled its listening software from the open-source 'Chromium Browser'. It turned out that the instrument using microphone on the device to listen out for the “OK, Google” hotword was downloaded and activated with Chromium updates without users’ knowledge.

Open-source developers claimed that Google was downloading a “black box” on to their computers, which was not open source. As a result, they couldn’t check whether this “black box” is doing what it claimed to be doing. In response to many concerns, Google has made it an optional download that will be installed only if a user adds it from the Chrome Web Store and expressly opts into the voice-search functionality. The latter can be activated on Google’s search pages.

Google announced that the newly issued r335874 Chromium builds wouldn’t download this module by default at all. The company emphasized that open source browser is very important to Google, including the part where it doesn’t ship with closed-source components for any reason.

If you don’t know, Chromium is the open-source base for the popular Chrome browser, which now accounts for a 49.2% share of the global browser market, followed by Microsoft’s IE (18.3%) and Firefox (16.4%).

In the meantime, the controversial always-listening feature is still being installed by default within Google’s Chrome browser, but it is not automatically enabled. However, the earlier reports mentioned the complaints of some Chromium users, who claimed that tool was activated and started listening to their conversations without asking for permission.

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