Microsoft has had a history of implementing moves that leave users at best confused, and at worst very annoyed, and it looks like becoming the world’s most valuable company by market cap hasn’t discouraged it in the slightest.
This time, Microsoft is being accused of siphoning data from browsers made by other tech companies. Apparently, having its own proprietary browser, Microsoft Edge, and all the user data it accumulates with that isn’t enough.
Neowin reports that users are angered because Microsoft is being accused of not requesting permission to take data like opened tabs and more from Google Chrome. Like Google Chrome itself and other browsers, Edge also has a feature where you can migrate and sync your data and saved information from another browser, allowing you to switch more easily.
When you first download and set up Edge, you’ll be asked if you’d like to permit Edge to access this information and do this, but is otherwise turned off by default.
Bug or intentional data plucking?
This migration option is fairly commonplace, but here’s where the problem comes in: Edge is seemingly reaching in and nabbing that kind of data from Chrome (if you have both installed) even when you’ve not given it the permission to do so.
The Verge’s Tom Warren very explicitly called Microsoft out for doing just that, explaining how after installing a Windows 11 update and rebooting his PC, Microsoft Edge opened with his Google Chrome tabs from his last session even though he didn’t authorize Edge to do that.
He investigated the matter, found that this happened on two devices, and then went to X (formerly Twitter) to reach out and see if others had shared his experience. Turns out, this wasn’t an isolated incident as many users echoed Warren’s experience.
I installed the latest Windows 11 update (KB5034204) and it rebooted and automatically opened Microsoft Edge with all the Chrome tabs I had open before installing the update 😲 couldn’t believe my eyes. Anyone else had this?January 24, 2024
However, Neowin attempted to replicate this scenario on PC and on virtual machines, but was unsuccessful. It’s currently unclear if this was a bug or an intentional move. So far, Microsoft hasn’t clarified this so I’ve reached out to get a comment on the situation, and I will update this story when I hear back.
If this is indeed intentional, then it’s a pretty egregious overstepping of user privacy, and Microsoft is in danger of upsetting a lot of its users with the move. Users have already been frustrated and annoyed with Microsoft’s behavior, like insistently questioning why users want to download Google Chrome, and continuously bugging users to transition to using Microsoft Edge and Bing.
Developments like this will no doubt continue to annoy users, which considering that Microsoft wants to be the go-to AI-assisted software powerhouse (e.g. with the introduction of Windows Copilot), does not bode well. On the other hand, if this is an innocent bug, Microsoft should still quickly move to address and fix the issue, before it loses any more goodwill.