Back in July, Walled Culture wrote about a terrible proposal from the French government to force browsers to incorporate a list of banned Web sites at the software level, so that they simply do not open. Now Google has a similarly awful plan to block certain browsers from being able to access a Web site, explained here by the Free Software Foundation (FSF):
Before serving a web page, a server can ask a third-party “verification” service to make sure that the user’s browsing environment has not been “tampered” with. A translation of the policy’s terminology will help us here: this Google-owned server will be asked to make sure that the browser does not deviate in any way from Google’s accepted browser configuration
That is, Google will get to decide whether your browser configuration is “worthy” of accessing a site. If it isn’t, the site will simply refuse to send you pages. Of course, Google dresses this up as being good for the digital world in all sorts of ways, including the following:
Users like visiting websites that are expensive to create and maintain, but they often want or need to do it without paying directly. These websites fund themselves with ads, but the advertisers can only afford to pay for humans to see the ads, rather than robots. This creates a need for human users to prove to websites that they’re human, sometimes through tasks like challenges or logins.
By an amazing coincidence, most of Google’s revenue comes from advertising… However, the FSF points out other uses, one of which will be of particular interest to Walled Culture readers:
It will be used by governments to ensure that only their officially “approved” (read: backdoored) browsers are able to access the Internet; it will be used by corporations like Netflix to [enforce] further Digital Restrictions Management (DRM); it will be used by Google to deny access to their services unless you are using a browser that gels with their profit margin.
Copyright companies will gladly make use of this capability to enforce their DRM lockdowns. Currently, they have no way to do that, however much they might want to. Google’s idea of “Web Environment Integrity” is nothing of the sort: it is an attack on the freedom of the Web and all who use it. It must be stopped and dropped.
Featured image by Stable Diffusion.
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