An information box is appearing above the inbox for users checking their Gmail, promising “additional protection against phishing”.
“Turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing to get additional protection against dangerous emails,” the box reads. Users can dismiss the prompt by clicking or tapping “No thanks," while clicking “Continue” takes you to this page in your account where you can enable it.
What is Enhanced Safe Browsing?
First introduced in 2020, and then improved a year later, Enhanced Safe Browsing works in the background in both Gmail and Chrome to prove real-time web protection.
With it enabled, Enhanced Safe Browsing will be on the lookout for risky URLs, downloads, browser extensions and more. Google has claimed that those with it enabled are phished 35% less often than those who haven’t opted in.
For websites, it checks “uncommon URLS” against a list in real time to reduce the odds of you hitting a phishing site. With suspicious-looking downloads, Google gives enrolled users the option of uploading files to Google’s servers for a more thorough check. And with browser extensions, those made by developers who don’t follow Google’s Developer Program Policies include an option to find out what permissions they have, so you can risk-assess the possible damage yourself.
None of this is mandatory, and you can overrule Google at any time. But the idea is to make users think a bit more carefully about blindly clicking links or downloading potentially risky files.
Gmail: Paying it forward
Enrolling in the program will also mean you’re helping in the wider cybersecurity efforts. Google says it will send a “small sample of pages, downloads, extension activity and system information to help discover new threats”.
Though those who worry about their privacy may be put off by the fact that this “temporarily links this data to your Google Account when you're signed in” in order to “protect you across Google apps”.
While the mobile prompts currently only seem to be appearing on Android, the iOS version of Chrome also supports Enhanced Safe Browsing as of last year.
If you don’t see the prompt, but want to enroll, it’s really easy to do so. You can toggle the option on in your Google account by logging in here, or enable it in the Chrome settings via this address: chrome://settings/security.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
Monitoring people's downloads across devices sounds like a good thing, but I don't see any guarantee that the data will be used only for what they say they intend to use it for. There's not even a general "Only for security purposes" notice.
I don't mind helping out the community and catching upcoming threats, but without assurances of what Google is going to do with the data, I have a hard time imagining they're not going to monetize it. For example, they already know what everyone downloads from their app store and are able to predict trends in the market and head off rising competition. Now, they'll know what is being downloaded everywhere else.