back to article Google emits Chrome 94 with 'Idle Detection' API to detect user inactivity amid opposition

Google has released Chrome 94 for desktop and Android, complete with an "Idle Detection" API to detect user inactivity, despite privacy concerns expressed by Mozilla and Apple. New and changed features in Chrome 94 are listed here and include the removal of the AppCache feature, described as a "security and stability liability …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do Evil

    The browser should not be extending beyond the browser. No way. Never.

    1. seven of five Silver badge

      Re: Do Evil

      I am looking forward to the day this will come back to bite. Still accepting bets on when (IF is out of question).

    2. Randy Hudson

      Re: Do Evil

      "Do Know Evil"

      FTFY

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So presumably Google is already gathering this data with their browser?

    With or without consent.

    Also, can we (I say we, please red: chrome users) get a setting to simply always tell all websites that there is activity happening and that idling is not taking place. Surely that should at least take care of any "you have to allow this" shenanigans.

    1. Meeker Morgan

      Surely that should at least take care of any "you have to allow this" shenanigans.

      I predict there will be an extension to do this.

      Also, this demonstrates once again why NoScript (or equivalent) is absolutely essential.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Surely that should at least take care of any "you have to allow this" shenanigans.

        I would have thought uninstalling Chrome would be even more absolutely essential.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surely that should at least take care of any "you have to allow this" shenanigans.

          Except when you're in local government with a fuckwhit director who "loves Google" and spouts bollocks like "Infrastructure free" and lies to the councillors that "Going Google will be cheaper than Microsoft 365" (it wasn't) and now insists everyone has to use Chrome.

  3. bronskimac

    The last straw

    I've not been happy with Chrome's privacy/snooping for a long time. I finally deleted it last night when I read about "Idle Detection". If there are Chrome features/extensions you simply cannot live without, then Comodo Dragon is a Chromium based browser that doesn't tell tales to Google.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: The last straw

      If the Idle Detection thing is implemented in Chromium, you will still get most of the bad from that "feature", even if the information isn't sent to Google.

      Every web site in the world would love to have the ability to tell if the user is active on their site or not, so you can bet it will be used by many regardless of whether Google has access that information too.

      Not to mention using another browser based on Chromium helps Google's aims for world domination as it allows web sites to be "designed for Chrome". We didn't get ready of "designed for IE6" only to have it come back with another browser years later.

      You need to use something that doesn't use Chromium if you want to prevent that, like Firefox or Opera (if they're still around)

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: The last straw

        Opera is Chromium based now, and there are lots of other reasons why you may not want to use it.

      2. stiine Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: The last straw

        You're too late, some sites and (hardware that i have to use) only allow Chrome, or Firefox with an appropriate add-on to spoof Chrome.

        1. sebacoustic

          Re: The last straw

          > some sites .. only allow Chrome

          smacks of the bad old days' favourite "Internet Explorer v3 and above only" error message

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: The last straw

            Except there won't be any "monopoly" accusations and trials; If it came to this Google would just fire the current government and buy a more understanding one...

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: The last straw

        There are a lot of Chromium derivatives that block such features to add more privacy.

        We'll have to wait and see, but I expect Vivaldi, Brave and a few others will block this feature in their versions...

  4. Barry Rueger

    Notifications

    "[U]sers want to receive notifications on only the device they are currently using," Grant said.

    I doubt that I am alone in struggling to eliminate all of the dozens of unwanted and unnecessary notifications from seemingly every web site and application that has ever come close to my devices.

    The all pervasive and all intrusive nature of tech right now is damaging us in many ways.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Notifications

      Try Firefox. Notifications are blocked by default until a site requests permission, and you can simply set it to block all permission requests so you never even need to bother denying them.

  5. roblightbody

    Firefox and Duck Duck Go

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Pale Moon, NoScript and Duck Duck Go.

  6. Empire of the Pussycat

    Would've been good to give the settings link

    i.e. chrome://settings/content/idleDetection

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

      Hidden under there, it will probably be removed by the time you read this.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

        > probably be removed by the time you read this

        Or made inactive, as in it doesn't really matter what the luser sets it to, what matters is the money we make out of it, so let them think they managed to switch it off, that will keep them out of our hair for a while.

    2. mantavani

      Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

      It's a really obtuse toggle, too. When it's on, the hint text is 'Ask when a site wants to know when you're actively using this device', when it's off this changes to 'Block sites from knowing when you're actively using this device'.

      In other words, you could easily hit the toggle because you think you are turning the block on.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

        The now well known "dark patterns" method. Are you sure you don't not want to turn the feature off

      2. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

        Wow what language was that written in before it was badly translated to English.

        I think Sir Humphrey would have been proud of that.

        Seriously though I don’t use chrome, and after this announcement have even less desire to do so.

        The browser should be a sandboxed app (as should most of applications) to stop this sort of leakage and spying on users.

        I visit a website and then may leave it open whilst doing something else, hard luck site operators I’m doing what I want to do.

    3. juliansh

      Re: Would've been good to give the settings link

      Even though I had to dig around to find this setting, I'm grateful to The Register folks for pointing this out!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greater employee abuse

    I suspect thus feature is for company that seek greater potential to invalidate the value of their employees contributions, towards the end goal of minimizing wages and situational benefits

    By creating mechanisms to suggest that workers could be more productive, it decreases the percieved value of the existing productivity in the perspective of the company and the stock scene. Which decreases the realizable value of the labor by the worker.

    Industry wide Metric games to keep proper compensation just out of reach.

  8. skeptical i

    can't websites already do this?

    There are some sites I use that, when I get distracted and do something in another browser, pop up a notice to the effect of "are you still there? click [here] to keep the page open" (some have a "you will be booted in 20 seconds" countdown). So, unless the real reason is employee "time on task" tracking (as mentioned above), I don't know that this is doing what can not already be done.

    I would expect Chromium-based browsers whose developers claim top concern for users' privacy will have "turn this nonsense OFF" toggles easy to find and adjust, if this hell can not be disabled "at the source" by the browser coders.

    Also, I "attend" many tele-meetings wherein I don't really DO anything besides listen, watch the presentations, and maybe toss a question into the chat window at the end. Will my lack of participation be considered "away"?

    I agree that this would seem to cause more problems than it notionally purports to solve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: can't websites already do this?

      But that notice is a site specific thing, no?

      The site can't tell if you're still using your device and just not the site or if you're away from your device.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: can't websites already do this?

      > Will my lack of participation be considered "away"?

      I guess it might indeed, especially in remote working: Micromanaging sociopath managers will use this handy tool to replace breathing down your neck all day.

      As a result you'll have to raise the signal/noise ratio of online meetings by constantly throwing in pointless questions and remarks, so that in the end you are not considered "absent" (with all the professional drawbacks this entails)... It's seems like a marvelous case of lose-lose situation, but you'll have to remember successful corporate management isn't about being efficient, but about looking efficient.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: can't websites already do this?

        Pointless questions for the win in meetings.. as far as management are concerned

        Manager recently said I don't contribute enough to certain sprint meetings - replied that in last meeting I asked a few clarification questions and so was contributing when I needed to: Explained that if something was unclear to me then I raise a question, otherwise no reason for me to say anything if requirements were clear.

        ... still told I need to contribute more, so looks like I have to pretend some areas of a story need more detail / clarification and so raise needless questions, and then the meetings take even longer.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: can't websites already do this?

        Reminds me of the time I was messaging a friend back and fore via whatsapp. I knew she watched out for the "typing..." status message, so after a particular bit of insulting banter, I wrote something like "Oh, just remembered something. This is important:"

        I sent that and then just kept tapping keys for about 15 minutes whilst I watched youtube videos on another device.

  9. Magani
    Happy

    Clippy's joined Google

    "I see you're not paying attention. Would you like help with that?"

  10. msobkow Silver badge

    More importantly, it lets websites like YouNoob to spam the user with loud advertising at the earliest possible opportunity to get them back and interacting with their Tamagochi app that desperately lives for attention.

  11. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    Slack will like this...

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. skalamanga

    The return of mousejiggle.exe

    10chars...

  14. DailyLlama
    Holmes

    Fixed it

    I couldn't find it in settings, but a spot of googling (ironically), led me to this:

    chrome://settings/content/idleDetection

    Then "don't allow sites to know when you're actively using your device".

  15. neoseo

    The 3rd Party Stalker API

    Sounds like this is nothing short of the "stalker api". Looks like it will allow 3rd party add platforms to get notifications on everything you do online.

    So this is how Google will give themselves cover to justify killing 3rd party cookies? Which will all but eliminate ad and affiliate competition.

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