Google is pushing back against an outcry from internet service providers (ISPs) and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee regarding its plan to encrypt DNS in the Chrome browser.
Late last month, Google announced plans to adopt DNS over HTTPS (DoH) in Chrome. DoH uses the secure HTTPS standard to encrypt Domain Name Systems (DNS) traffic. When users type a URL into the address bar in their browser, the browser performs a DNS lookup to translate the URL (www.mobilesyrup.com) to something computers understand (like an IP address).
While privacy advocates supported the announcement, American ISPs criticized the move. The main concern centred around fears that Google would automatically shift Chrome users to its own DNS service to provide DoH protection.
That would take customers away from ISPs’ DNS services, which people typically use unless they go out of their way to change the DNS platform they use.
Considering ISPs often use DNS services to collect valuable data about what their customers do online, it’s no surprise that losing DNS to Google would be an issue. ISPs also claimed that Chrome’s switch to DoH would hinder family-safe content controls they offer to customers.
Google addressed ‘misinformation and confusion’ around DoH experiment
However, Google said in a recent blog post that neither of these concerns are legitimate. First, the company said that it had no plan to change a user’s DNS service, echoing what it said in September. Further, Google says the DoH experiment in Chrome will simply support secure connections for those who already use DNS services that support DoH.
Essentially, Chrome checks the user’s DNS provider against a list of DoH-compatible DNS services and enables DoH if the DNS provider supports it.
As for the family controls, Google said any existing DNS provider content controls “should remain active.” DoH only secures the URL data while it’s in transit between the browser and the DNS service, which means it should have no impact on content controls.
And ultimately, that’s the benefit of DoH. By encrypting DNS calls, DoH prevents malicious actors from spoofing websites to trick users and snooping on which sites people visit.
Google plans to roll out DoH support for about one percent of Chrome users. The limited rollout will allow Google to monitor and test performance and reliability. Further, Chrome 79 will allow users to opt-out through a Chrome flag, a hidden type of settings that enable users to customize aspects of the browser.