I was going to put an exclamation mark after the title but I realized there’s no need as I don’t get surprised by hearing Google is doing something bad to the web. As Google does, they’re launching another attack on free Internet, this time by “Web Environment Integrity”.
Put in simple words, Google is giving developers an API through which they can approve certain browser configurations while forbidding others from accessing a service or a page. This means, assuming one implements it, one can prevent you from accessing their web page or using a service because you used Firefox instead of their choice of web browser.
The intro explains that the goal is to make sure the browser hasn’t been modified or tampered with in any unapproved ways. Given that Google is behind this, unapproved ways surely means whatever hurts Google’s tracking and data-harvesting.
See how you can read this post using your favorite web browser or RSS reader? That’ll no longer be the case if this WEI thingy is put in work. Do you use tracker-blockers on your browser for safe and painless browsing? With WEI they can force you to use the browser the way they want and it can force you not to block ads.
Imagine being forced to use an specific browser of their choice (not yours but theirs) and being tracked not by cookies only but by the browser itself (just like how Google Chrome does) and worse than that, imagine you’re blocked from accessing a web site because you tried to block trackers using an extension.
Well of course they claim that’s not the goal but what’s stopping them? Google has a long history of abusing users and collecting personal information to sell or use for advertisers. Google is not a hero when it comes to keeping promises and they’re not trusted with people’s data.
In the “non-goals” section of the project, it says they don’t want to “interfere with browser functionality, including plugins and extensions.” That’s a promise to not killing ad-blockers, even though the project mentions better advertising support as some of its goals.
It’s dangerous. Google will do anything to collect more and more information from users and to fight those who resist it. It’s dangerous to privacy, security, freedom, and integrity of open web. It will cause a lot of problems for people which are far more bigger than whether we see or not see advertisements.
Think about political activists who are forced to browse web using Chrome instead of Tor and their data is collected by someone who sells them to tyrannical governments. Imagine a human rights campaign organizer being forced to give away personal data and the whole campaign being compromised because of it. The Internet and web were never completely safe but imagine the last traces of privacy being wiped for the profit of a company and some CEOs.
It’s against everything that we stand for but most importantly it’s against our freedom. It’s targeting our freedom of choice, freedom of computing, freedom for information, freedom for Internet and people using it, and freedom of us against tyranny. We should fight against it. It’ll destroy what’s left of our free web and Internet.