Google is aggressively promoting Enhanced Safe Browsing on Gmail, but what is it?

Google explains enabling Advanced Safe Browsing to provide "real-time" security scanning to warn users about malicious websites, software, and extensions.

by Vikash Kumawat
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If you’ve opened Gmail on your web browser recently, chances are you’ve seen a prompt reading, “Enhanced Safe Browsing.” There is an option to delay or dismiss the prompt, but this may pique your interest. After all, who doesn’t want to stay safe on the Internet amid the rise in online scams? Google says that enabling “Advanced Safe Browsing” helps users “get faster and more proactive protection against dangerous websites, downloads and extensions.” It works automatically and improves your security in Google Chrome and Gmail.

This prompt started rolling out last week and more users are seeing it. Google explains enabling Advanced Safe Browsing to provide “real-time” security scanning to warn users about malicious websites, software, and extensions. It also appears to improve Google’s ability to detect and protect against phishing and malware for you and everyone else on the web. Google says this gives users “better protection” from dangerous links on Google apps.

To manage Enhanced Safe Browsing for their account, users need to open Google Account > Select Security on the left > Scroll and find Enhanced Safe Browsing for your account > Enable or disable it.

Google says that it may take up to 24 hours for the setting to take effect. Google’s update comes at a time when online scams are on the rise. With the rapid expansion of free-to-use generative AI platforms, it can become all too easy for scammers to craft believable email scams, even through Gmail. Although advanced Safe Browsing can have many benefits, Google is also collecting data to protect privacy. Official FAQ Note:

“To help keep your account and data safe, Advanced Safe Browsing examines your account at risk for: URLs, downloads, browser extensions, system information, and a small sample of pages.”

Google suggests that the collected data is anonymized after a short period of time to protect privacy. However, CNET notes, citing a study from Princeton and Stanford universities, that “anonymous data including search history can be linked to social media profiles using publicly available data.”

The feature may also put new developers at a disadvantage as they may have to wait for Google’s trusted certification. This is because the company has recently started following stricter developer program policies. A waiting period of months could potentially discourage new developers. On the users side, Advanced Safe Browsing is a good option, but users need to follow basic hygiene to ensure online safety. This includes avoiding downloading software from untrustworthy sources and checking URLs.

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