Google's decision to restrict access to the Chrome API needed for full ad-blocking to paid enterprise customers was especially worrisome because Chrome's free/open derivative, Chromium, is the basis for many other browsers, including Microsoft's Edge, as well as Opera and the privacy-focused Brave.
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Since January, Google has been pushing for a change to its extensions handling in Chrome; one casualty of that change is ability to block unwanted content before its loads, something that would effectively kill privacy tools and ad-blockers.
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A year ago, Benjamin "Mako" Hill gave a groundbreaking lecture explaining how Big Tech companies had managed to monopolize all the benefits of free software licenses, using a combination of dirty tricks to ensure that the tools that were nominally owned by no one and licensed under free and open terms nevertheless remained under their control, so that the contributions that software developers made to "open" projects ended up benefiting big companies without big companies having to return the favor.
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The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Read the rest
If you install "Coincidence Detector," a Chrome plugin from Altrightmedia, then every time a Jewish-seeming name appears in your browser, it will be surrounded in (((triple parentheses))) (the extension also uses a crowdsourced list of known Jews to enfold their names in parenthetical hugs where they appear). Read the rest
The default behavior of hotword, a new, black-box module in Chrome (and its free/open cousin, Chromium) causes it to silently switch on your computer's microphone and send whatever it hears to Google. Read the rest
Under Chrome's security model, a website that gets your permission to access your mic and camera once keeps it forever, regardless of which page is loaded -- so you might authorize an app running on one page of Github to use your mic, and thereafter, every Github page you visit can listen in on you automatically, without you getting any indication that this is going on. Google maintains that this is the right way for Chrome to behave -- that it complies with the relevant W3C standard.
Google has created a fix for this, but have not pushed it to Chrome users. If you want to protect your camera and mic from sneaky or unintended remote operation and you use Chrome, you'll need to take some extraordinary measures, which are laid out in this Lifehacker post. The simplest thing is to disable camera/mic access in Chrome altogether, but that sucks if there are some instances in which you'd like to have them switched on. Read the rest