At this point, the statement “Google is creepy with your data” isn’t a shocking one. We know that Google and companies like it compromise our privacy and security every day in the name of business and profit; we just sort of, you know, deal with it? However, there’s some extra creepiness going on with Chrome lately — specifically if you use the browser on Android.
Mysk, a duo of app developers and security researchers, recently exposed Chrome’s shadiness on Twitter. In the tweet, Mysk brings to light that, by default, Chrome is sharing your phone’s motion data with the websites you visit. This is not cool.
Why you don’t want third parties accessing your motion data
To start with, this is — as I have pointed out — creepy af. The data comes from your phone’s accelerometer, the sensor responsible for tracking the device’s orientation and position. That sensor makes it possible to switch from portrait to landscape mode, as well as track you and your phone’s motion. For example, it empowers fitness apps to know how many steps you took, so long as you had your phone on you.
Since most of us keep our phones in our pocket or on our person, there is a lot of motion data generated on the device throughout the day. Google Chrome, by design, allows any website you click on to request that motion data, and hands it over with gusto. Researchers have found that these sites use accelerometer data to monitor ad interactions, check ad impressions, and to track your device (well, duh). Those first two, however, are infuriatingly sketchy; websites don’t just want to know if you’ll click on an ad or not, they want to know how you physically interact with these popups. Hey, why stop there? Why not tap into my camera and see what colour shirt I’m wearing?
How to stop Chrome from sharing motion data with sites
Delete the app from your phone. Kidding. I know the vast majority of people on Android aren’t going to want to switch from Chrome to another mobile browser. That said, privacy-minded users might want to jump ship to something more reputable — like Firefox — and, if so, good for you.
But there are plenty of benefits to sticking with Chrome, especially on Android (considering the platform is also designed and operated by Google). If you don’t want to take the most drastic step, you can simply toggle a setting to block Google from sharing this data. As Mysk points out in their tweet, you can disable motion-data-sharing from Chrome’s settings.
Dear #Android users,— Mysk ???????????????? (@mysk_co) October 29, 2021
Chrome shares your motion sensor with all the websites you visit by default.
This video shows how you can disable it. Please do it now.
You can learn more about this here:https://t.co/zMbPpuX3VH#CyberSecurity #Privacy pic.twitter.com/riWNQUfxKB
Here’s how: Open the app, tap the three dots in the top-right corner, then choose “Settings.” Next, scroll down, tap “Site settings,” then “Motion sensors.” Turn off the toggle here to make sure no more third-party sites can ask for your motion data from here on out.