What is Google's Idle Detection?

With Google Chrome 94 there have been a lot of new things again. Incidentally, this also includes the API called Idle Detection. However, Mozilla and Apple developers are more than critical of this feature, warning of surveillance. Nevertheless, it is possible to turn off this Google feature. What is particularly interesting is what is behind the idea of the API. Before the function can be activated, it must be approved by the user on the respective website.

A brand-new feature

The API called Idle Detection is a brand-new interface from Google Chrome 94. Mainly this feature is intended for website developers and designers. With the help of this function, it is possible for the browser to inform the website whether the computer is currently in use or not. This means that the API stands for an idle detection. However, this detection is not limited to the Google Chrome web browser, but to the complete use of the entire computer and network. Developers from Apple and Mozilla therefore warn against this function, because it makes it very easy to create user profiles. Thus, privacy is at risk. However, it is not possible to collect data secretly. Every time the website is visited, a dialog appears. It states that the function wants access. Therefore, similar to the location or microphone, the user must allow whether the active data should be recorded accordingly or not.

Deactivate Idle Detection

It is possible to switch off Google's idle detection via the settings. To do this, the user goes to the website settings and selects the device usage, then selects button: "Don´t allow sites to know when you´re actively using your device".

It is therefore reassuring that the function can be turned off by anyone who feels uncomfortable with it. This is a hot tip especially for those who value data privacy.

What data is collected?

Basically, the new API collects information about idle time and usage, such as:

  • when there is interaction with the computer via keyboard, mouse and screen
  • when the screen saver activates
  • when the user is changed, or when the screen is locked

So, if the computer is no longer used, the API forwards this information directly via the system. The active user is thus recognized immediately. This, in turn, raises many privacy concerns. So if you use Google Chrome 94 or higher, you can deactivate the API, which is generally active by default in most cases. It is all the more worthwhile to deactivate idle detection.