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IP Protection Through Proxying: What Does This Really Mean for Users?
Google is one of the most significant technology search engines in the world and an invaluable tool for users seeking to find information and answers to questions that they have efficiently. But now, Google has decided that it is time to test a new feature in its widely used Chrome browser by hiding IP addresses. By sending these connections from the browser through a proxy server first, the remote website only sees the IP address of the proxy server, not the device (phone, tablet, desktop, etc) from which the browser is being run.
It’s important to note that Google already has access to users’ information. In any capacity that users search on the web in their browser, information has already been gathered after that search. Google collects information about the interaction of users’ apps, browsers, and devices using its services, including IP address, crash reports, system activity, and the date, time, and referrer URL of requests. Within seconds, Google has all of this access at its feet.
So why the need for IP Protection through proxying? Is Google potentially restricting our privacy and access and monopolizing the proxy market? Let’s examine the potential implications of the IP Protection feature for Google users.
What Is Proxying?
Let’s backtrack. What is proxying?
Proxying is the act or practice of a person or organization serving as an authorized agent or substitute for another. Google is looking to act as an intermediary between a client requesting a resource and the server providing that resource. So, controlling in a sense? Yes. The information they are collecting, which was planned initially for Chrome on Android and the desktop, is an effort to limit cross-site website tracking that complements the move away from third-party cookies, another mechanism for ad-focused surveillance.
Why is Google Developing this New Feature?
The new IP Protection feature could significantly impact how privacy, tracking, and online advertising intersect.
Google’s interest in improving user privacy on the Chrome Browser continues to rise as it has been slowly phasing out third-party cookies and plans to cut them out entirely by Q2 2024, replacing cookies with a series of APIs to limit user data being shared with third parties and remove cross-app identifiers.
Like its approach to cutting cookies from Chrome, Google will introduce its IP Protection feature in stages to accommodate regional considerations and allow websites to adjust to the new privacy implementations slowly.
The feature will initially be an opt-in feature, allowing users to control who has access to their IP addresses while letting Chrome keep tabs on behavioral trends and user data that is valuable to Google.
So, essentially, Google has shared plans for this new feature, how it should and will work going forward, and also discussed the privacy its users will still have. However, as stated above, users will continue to control their information and who gets access to it. But they failed to mention that at the end of the day, Google Chrome will “continue” to keep tabs on user behavior for Google’s benefit.
What Benefits Will IP Protection Provide to Users?
The benefits of IP Protection through proxying are being presented as a way for browser vendors to provide their users with additional privacy. According to an IP Protection explainer, “The user’s IP address continues to make it feasible to associate users’ activities across origins that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.” This information can be combined over time to create a unique, persistent user profile and track a user’s activity across the web, representing a threat to their privacy. Moreover, unlike third-party cookies, there is no straightforward way for users to opt out of this kind of covert tracking.
With this new feature that aims to shield users’ IP addresses through proxy servers, users will gain protection from third-party cookies trying to steal their data and any information that third parties can benefit from. This opt-in feature gives users protection against their privacy being affected by something they don’t really know or understand. While IP tracking hinders users’ privacy, it is also crucial to keeping users safe online, preventing fraud and other security threats by keeping close tabs on user activity.
Is Google Potentially Restricting Our Privacy and Access and Monopolizing the Proxy Market?
The short answer: Absolutely! Google plans on assigning IP addresses to proxy connections that represent a “coarse” location of a user rather than their specific location. Unlike cookies, your browser can’t block requests for your IP address. This is a fundamental part of the way the Internet works. It’s similar to everyone sharing a single landline at a residence. Individuals using the line might have unique names, but anyone tracing a call will only see the address the line is tied to. That’s then used to track habits and interests. Starting off, IP Protection will only work for specific domains, then expand to include more domains and protection from cross-site tracking.
How Will IP Protection Impact Other Proxy and VPN Services?
Google has built up a reputation for providing millions of users with answers to their questions. However, for companies like Google to maintain a solid reputation, they must realize that trust has to remain. This is not just about the privacy of users; it is also about selling your Internet history to advertisers, which VPN providers are monetizing. In this sense, with the introduction of features like IP Protection, the “Googles” of the world are losing money.
Google Acknowledges Potential Security Implications Related to the Launch of This New Feature
Google itself has stated that this new feature could have potential security implications, including:
- Google’s Servers: They will be tracked with the potential to make it difficult for security and fraud protection services to block DDoS attacks or detect invalid traffic.
- Requirements: They are considering requiring users of the IP Protection feature to authenticate with the proxy. It has to make sure that the user is who they say they are.
- Prevention: They hope to prevent proxies from linking web requests to particular accounts. Proxy hacking is a method attackers use to exploit a program’s internal functions by sending control commands to the proxy server. The proxy server is a program that forwards requests made by applications, but only if they’re within a specific scope.
- Introducing Rate-Limiting to Prevent DDoS Attacks: this is a crucial technique used in computer systems to control the amount of traffic a server can handle. It is a mechanism that monitors and controls the number of requests a client can make to a server within a specific timeframe.
Final Thoughts on the New IP Protection Feature
The level of trust that users expect with Google is at risk of decreasing with the introduction of the new IP Protection feature. Google users are questioning the potential security implications of this feature and what it means for their privacy, as their information is already out there for the world to see. As Google tests this new feature, users are given the chance to decide what is best for their privacy and security. As one of the largest companies in the tech industry, Google will undoubtedly benefit from this feature. The introduction of IP Protection is less about the user and the safety and confidence they feel online and more about Google’s desire to remain on top.