Thursday, July 23, 2015

Is it Time to Ditch Google Chrome (and Chromium)?

I'm going to start off this post by saying that I LOVE Google Chrome browser on lighter weight machines. It's a fully featured browser with decent resource management.

And for deployments it's a dream! Compared to Mozilla Firefox, it's simple to administer.

I don't use it on my own desktop machine except for the occasional bit of testing on the platform. The problem?

Your web browser is no longer JUST a web browser. It's now an application platform. Google Chrome, in particular, is nasty on this front. While Firefox is completely open source, Google Chrome only pretends to be. I don't mean just the proprietary things like the Flash Plugin BUT also whatever Google decide to install and enable (as plugins).

It gets worse though. This blog post describes a scenario whereby Google were able to ignore the user's very specific instructions not to update. In other words, Google can change absolutely any policy and effectively take control. If you're a Linux user, you probably understand how amazingly terrible this is.

To those of you who don't quite understand this:
You buy a door. As part of buying that door, that door is updated. But one day you go to head out only to find that the door has been updated and now the hinges just won't work. You're not able to go back to the door that did work... You eventually, after much searching around, find a version of that same door that does work, but in order to avoid a situation where you're stuck inside your home, you decide to stop the door from being updated. The supplier of the door says "that's fine. All you have to do is use the lock and it'll be fine". A few weeks later, you find that your door is suddenly a different colour and the lock is gone.

It's hard not to feel violated when someone can just walk into your "home" (computer) without your permission. How much do you trust that someone?

It wasn't that long ago that Google started listening through your microphone. The crux of this is that the voice recognition software is not in your computer. It's instead, on the Internet. So in order for the "OK Google" keywords to be recognized, everything picked up by the microphone is sent to Google over the Internet to see if 'OK Google' is ever said.

So not only have Google removed the locks from your door, they've also bugged the place.

Now, this isn't normal. Google may claim it is. Others may argue the point about "forced updates" though if a setting has been set that is documented as stopping a particular activity and that activity happens anyway (phoning home to Google), Google are not working in good faith.

Oh, and also note, you are not safe while using Chromium either.