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Google Chrome to remove detailed cookie and site data controls

September 3 2021 by Jeff Johnson
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A month ago I ran into an obscure Google Chrome bug on macOS that caused the "All cookies and site data" page in Chrome settings (chrome://settings/siteData) to load very slowly. You can see this page if you open Preferences, select "Privacy and security", "Cookies and other site data", and then "See all cookies and site data". I filed a bug report with Chromium's issue tracker. Since then, some members of the Chromium team have been trying to track down the cause of the bug, a normal and boring process. However, this week I got an update on the issue that was shocking to me:

we are planning on deprecating that page and making chrome://settings/content/all the place to manage storage

You can see why this is a big change if we compare the two pages. First, here's a screenshot of the current page chrome://settings/siteData

All cookies and site data

If you click the disclosure triangle for one of the entries, you see detailed information about the each cookie and each kind of site data. There are also "X" buttons to delete each cookie or site data storage individually.

app.slack.com locally stored data

Now let's look at a screenshot of the new page chrome://settings/content/all

All sites

If you click the disclosure triangle for one of the entries, you see… well, basically nothing about the site data. And there are no delete buttons for individual cookies. The only button is "Clear data", an all or nothing option.

app.slack.com

It's difficult to determine Google's motivation for this change. In my bug report there's a reference to another issue Consolidated Site Storage controls implementation bug, which is not much more than a reference to some git commits. Its first comment is "Implementation bug for Issue 1238756". But Issue 1238756 seems to be private and inaccessible to me. As far as I know, there's been no public discussion of this change, and Google employees may have accidentally leaked the information to me in my innocuous bug report.

In my opinion, this change is very unwelcome. It takes away a lot of information and control from the user. For what benefit? I hope to spur a public debate about it and give some pushback to Google before they make too much "progress" on the change in Chrome.

By the way, before anyone runs off and yells "Switch to Safari" or something like that, keep in mind that Safari is actually in a worse state and doesn't have detailed cookie and site information at all.

Manage Website Data

Apple too often takes the approach of hiding important controls and information from users. It's unfortunate that Google intends to go down that path too.

Addendum

Let me address a few comments already appearing on the orange site:

  1. This information can be seen with the web inspector in both Chrome and Safari.

    Yes, but the crucial difference is that you have to navigate to an individual site in a browser window in order to see the site data in the web inspector. Whereas in the Preferences, you can get to the site data, for every website, without having to load the sites. And remember, the very act of loading a site can make the site data change, so there's an "observer effect" if you try to examine or delete it in the web inspector.

  2. "Seems reasonable. If you want detailed information about the contents of individual cookies that's what developer tools are for. A simple "clear data" button seems far more usable for normal users."

    If you look at my first screenshot, there's a "trash" button that deletes all the site's data, so it's already usable for normal users. You don't see more detailed information unless you use the disclosure widget.

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