Google’s encrypted version of its Chrome browser has sparked concern among a number of internet safety watchdogs and intelligence agencies who fear the move could endanger children’s safety online.
Critics of the version of the web browser – which is currently available but is not the default version – argue it could make it more difficult to block harmful material, as it will bypass most parental control systems.
Currently, harmful material like terrorist propaganda and child-abuse images are blocked by broadband companies that install filters which read the internet’s “address book,” known as domain name servers.
But with th encrypted version, users are able to bypass the filters and connect to its server instead.
According to The Sunday Times, talks are to now be held in May which will see broadband providers including BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk come together with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to discuss the risks posed by Chrome.
The report cites a government official who has said its ability to investigate paedophiles and terror cells would be hampered.
They also stressed that intelligence and law enforcement officials fear that the new Chrome will allow Google to amass unprecedented detail on people’s browsing habits.
Talking to the title, they said: “Google will have a lot more than their searches — it will have their entire browser history. That’s an incredible amount of data,” he said. It will also be able to track devices rather than just household accounts.”
The move by Google heightens concerns already raised over its handling of children’s safety online.
Over the past two years, Google-owned YouTube has faced unrelenting questions about the safety of its platform. Most recently, it was forced to disable comments on videos of minors after a ring of paedophiles were communicating and sharing disturbing links of children in the comments section. A number of brands pulled out from YouTube in response.
In a statement to The Times Google said: “Google has not made any changes to the default behaviour of Chrome.”
Despite efforts to quash advertisers concerns around brand safety by developing a suite of internal tools to combat the issue, Google’s UK marketing director, Nishma Robb admitted the tech giant might never be able to guarantee “100% safety” for brands.