Chrome M83 Update Delivers Security, Privacy & Extension Enhancements

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Google is now rolling out its first new version of Chrome since pausing its update cycle, with version M83. As indicated by the naming convention used in Google's announcement, M83 is a milestone update. That means it's going to include a plethora of features, primarily leaning toward key aspects of the browser and its namesake OS. This time around, the update is all about safety, privacy, and giving users more control.

A significant portion of this update centers around making it easier for users to control their data. To that end, the search giant says it is now easier to manage cookies. Not only can users block all or some cookies on any or all websites. They'll also be able to "choose if and how cookies are used" by a given website.

Meanwhile, permissions in the Site Settings have been restructured into two distinct areas serving different purposes. The first provides the standard permissions controls. As always, those provide easy access to all of the permissions in question. But a second section now also calls the most recent activity surrounding permissions to light.

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The final change on the control front is two organizational changes. The first re-titles the "People" option in controls to a clearer label. Now, that's called "You and Google." The function stays the same with the section providing controls of shared data with Google.  Google has also moved the "Clear browsing data" tool to the top of the Privacy & Security section in settings.

Conversely, a new section in the Settings called "Safety Check" will actively scan for compromised passwords, harmful extensions, provide access to safe browsing features, and check that Chrome is up to date.

Optional security measures are ready to use here too

Google is also letting users opt-in for two new security-enhancing features with the Chrome M83 update. The first of those is a new option, found in "Privacy and security," called Secure DNS. That, as its name implies, utilizes DNS-over-HTTPS to encrypt the DNS lookup. That prevents would-be attackers from seeing what sites are being visited or inserting redirects to phishing websites.

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A new browsing mode is available as well, called Enhanced Safe Browsing. With that activated, Chrome will take a more proactive approach and check whether pages or downloads are dangerous. That is, it checks those before the download is started or the site is loaded. The protections will also extend to other Google apps such as Gmail and Drive if the user is signed in. And, of course, password protections are included as part of that mode.

What else is included in the Chrome M83 update?

Of course, there are a few other things included with this update. And that's not just all of the adjustments and features that were initially set to be released with the now-skipped version 82.

But first, there is one final new addition that's arriving as part of the Chrome 83 update. Namely, Google is now including a puzzle-shaped icon on the toolbar next to the URL Omnibox. That icon is explicitly used to access and manage extensions. Users will still be able to pin their favorites directly to the toolbar. But the new icon provides quicker access and more control over the data that extensions can access on sites.

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Following up on that change, Chrome will now make it easier to stay safe in Incognito Mode too. The browser already doesn't save data and deletes cookies when the window is closed. And the company is actively working to incorporate a "Privacy Sandbox" in the long term. But it's also now rolling out a new control on the New Tab page UI for Incognito Mode.

The control serves as a togglable way for users to simply block cookies outright. Third-party cookies for individual sites can be allowed on a case by case basis. That control will be tucked behind an "eye" icon in the URL Omnibox.

Finally arriving now for desktop, later for Chromebooks and mobile

With regard to features that were set to appear in Chrome 82, those are still arriving now. Chrome 82 was expected to include an updated media control panel, for starters. That was expected to include a picture-in-picture button, allowing system-level use of that feature on-demand.

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The update was additionally predicted to include a security fix to halt downloads of insecure mixed content.

On the user-facing front, the expectation was that Chrome OS 82 would include an updated Files app. Specifically, that would be redesigned to fall more in line with Material Design standards. Among other fixes, Google was also predicted to finally get around to making local print tasks easier via a dedicated app on Chrome OS.

Now, since Google had skipped an update, this particular software and firmware could take longer to arrive. But Google does indicate it is rolling that now. Starting, as has been the tradition, with desktop platforms, that means Macs, Windows machines, and Linux computers will see changes first.

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The update for Android has typically followed close behind and should do so here as well in-between the desktop and Chrome OS rollout. Chromebooks, running Chrome OS, will lag behind by about a week on the current schedule. That means the rollout there should start around May 26.