Google announced a pair of important security features of upcoming versions of its Chrome browser at this year’s I/O Developer Conference.
Both changes are designed with the same goal in mind:
To give users some additional tools to block or at least mitigate the threat of online tracking.
The first of the two new features is called Improved SameSite Cookies, and as the name suggests, it’s an attempt to improve cookie handling. As you probably know, cookies are created when a user visits a particular website. Cookies are the mechanism by which that site remembers information about a user’s visit. It stores information such as preferred language, items you may have in your shopping cart (if the site has an eCommerce element), your login information, and the like.
Unfortunately, cookies are often used to identify users and track their movement and activities. That is not only by the owners of the site, but also by any third-party the site shares data with. As an example, cookies are the reason that re-targeting ad strategies work. Worse, there’s currently no good way to categorize and identify how websites are using cookies. To every browser in use today, they’re all considered to be the same thing. That is why when you go into your browser settings page and clear your cookies, it automatically logs you out of all websites where you’ve saved your login credentials.
Google’s new feature would change that, allowing you to selectively delete cookies based on what they’re doing. That means you’d be able to preserve your saved logins while blocking or deleting cookies used for other purposes. In a similar vein, the company’s planned Fingerprinting Protection feature seeks to make it harder to fingerprint people that are using the Chrome browser. That is a tactic commonly used to track user activity without their knowledge and consent.
It remains to be seen how robust these new features will be, but if they live up to expectations, they’ll be two powerful new additions to Google’s growing suite of user controls. That’s a very good thing.