Chrome’s Next Privacy Upgrade Might Break Some Websites

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Most web browsers have been slowly phasing out User Agents, which send details about your computer and browser to sites. Starting in October 2022, the Chrome web browser will take another step towards ditching User Agent strings entirely.

Traditionally, the User Agent string includes your web browser name and version, your operating system name and version, and the type of CPU in your device. Unlike your microphone and webcam, pages can access the User Agent without asking you first. Chrome already removed the minor browser version in User Agent strings earlier this year — for example, Chrome 104.0.5112.101 is now reported as Chrome

Starting in October 2022, with the release of Chrome 107, the full operating system and CPU information will be replaced with a fixed “unified platform” value. For example, all Windows PCs will be identified as “Windows NT 10.0,” all Mac computers will be “Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_15_7,” all Chromebooks will be “X11; CrOS x86_64 14541.0.0,” and so on. Even though those strings have versions, they will not be updated over time. The idea is to limit fingerprinting as much as possible without breaking sites and web apps.

Even though Google is warning web developers months in advance, the upcoming User Agent change might cause a few sites to have problems. Chrome and Firefox recently passed version 100, which caused problems for sites that only checked the first two digits. Firefox’s bug tracker for the version number change included the sites for Metro by T-Mobile, Netflix, HP printing services, a government website for the state of Florida, and others.

The User Agent change will be a gradual rollout, so not everyone who updates to Chrome 107 will have the updated string. Google will also allow some sites to opt out until May 2023, with the release of Chrome 113.

Source: Chrome Developers, Chromium