WaPo Writer Calls the Chrome Web Browser Spy Software

created Jun 24, 2019

Jun 21, 2019 - washingtonpost.com opinion - Goodbye, Chrome: Google’s web browser has become spy software

Our latest privacy experiment found Chrome ushered more than 11,000 tracker cookies into our browser — in a single week. Here’s why Firefox is better.

webpagetest.org results for that WaPo opinion piece.

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
6/24/2019, 9:22:09 AM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 19.938 seconds
Requests: 266
Bytes in: 7,832 KB

266 web requests??? WTF WaPo?

Actually (and sadly), that's a low number web requests for media websites today to read a single article.

Nearly 1 megabyte of the downloaded bytes was for JavaScript. Too me, that's way too much client-side JavaScript needed to read an article and to view a video. But sadly, "only" one megabyte of JavaScript is also on the low side for today's media orgs.

I doubt that WaPo creates a quarterly security and audit report that explains what their website is doing to readers, regarding the large number of web requests, JavaScript, and other crapware that unsuspecting readers download.

Of those 266 web requests, 76 were for JavaScript. Maybe we need government regulation to order media orgs to eliminate client-side JavaScript to protect the security and privacy for at least WaPo's subscribers.

6.5 megabytes of the download were for video. Since I access WaPo with JavaScript disabled, I don't know the subject matter of the video.

Okay, I enabled JavaScript for that WaPo article. Man, what a horrible website UI/UX. Anyway, the video is a scripted short movie, about 2.5 minutes long, that attempts to explain how the Chrome browser permits tracking. The allegedly educational video is titled "This is how Google's Chrome lets cookies track you, imagined in real life."

But in my opinion, this tracking issue is more about websites, like WaPo, setting and getting cookies and using JavaScript to track users. It's less about the web browsers.

About the author of that opinion piece:

Geoffrey A. Fowler is The Washington Post’s technology columnist based in San Francisco. He joined The Post in 2017 after 16 years with the Wall Street Journal writing about consumer technology, Silicon Valley, national affairs and China.

Based upon that description, it appears that the writer should have knowledge about the subject matter, chosen for his opinion.

If Firefox has stronger default settings, regarding privacy, that's nice. Maybe this has contributed to Firefox's amazing four percent browser share.

If web users were REALLY concerned about crapware trackers, pushed to users by web publishers, then users would avoid reading media websites, and users would read the web with JavaScript disabled for all websites, regardless of the web browsers used.

Is JavaScript disabled by default in Firefox? I don't think so. The word "JavaScript" never appeared in the author's opinion. Since he never mentioned the abuse of client-side JavaScript, then how can we take the writer seriously?

Instead of using Firefox and Chrome and other so-called modern web browsers to read the obnoxiously bloated modern web, the opinion writer should have recommended users use the NetSurf web browser.

The writer should have chastised websites for their lack of progressive enhancement when the websites display no content with JavaScript disabled in users' web browsers.

The writer should have chastised web publishers for creating bloated websites that increase energy consumption, making those bloated websites environmentally unfriendly. Bloated websites drain batteries faster on mobile devices. Bloated websites make older computers moan and groan with CPUs glowing red.

The media's "obsession" with creating the worst websites on Earth helped inspire Google to release their bizarre bastardization of web standards in 2015, called Accelerated Mobile Pages, which the media has embraced and even praised because AMP does what the media orgs failed to do: create fast, lightweight, functional websites.

Most users don't care about the possible nefarious activities that could be occurring on their computer devices from the executions of questionable client-side JavaScript.

If Chrome users cared about tracking cookies, ads, and JavaScript, then those users, like me, make personal decisions to help resolve the issue by using browser extensions that block JavaScript, trackers, ads, etc.

In Chrome, I use the extensions Quick JavaScript Switcher, Privacy Badger, and uMatrix. At times, I also use limited web browsers, such as elinks, link2 -g, and NetSurf to READ the web. These limited browsers do not support JavaScript, which in my opinion, is a worst culprit than cookies alone.

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