This is an extremely linkbait-y article, with several incorrect statements (such as the headline itself). Since we keep our code as open as we can, the code for downloading the hotword detection blob is open and controlled by compile-time flags. Previously this was included as part of the default set of flags, which is how it ended up landing in Debian. It is now only set by default if you toggle branding=Chrome, and distro maintainers shouldn’t be setting that. The full bug, as hiberno pointed out, contains more discussion.
several incorrect statements (such as the headline itself)
Oh, ok, good.
the code for downloading the hotword detection blob is open and controlled by compile-time flags. Previously this was included as part of the default set of flags, which is how it ended up landing in Debian.
Wait, what? Isn’t the headline exactly correct then? People received builds of Chrome/Chromium that were listening to the mic, and this was enabled by default? (Happy to be wrong about this, I’m just trying to understand your comment.)
People received builds of chrome that included an option to listen to the mic. (I think. I’m not entirely clear. Some of the available information is.. muddled.)
Isn’t the headline exactly correct then? People received builds of Chrome/Chromium that were listening to the mic, and this was enabled by default?
From the bug:
First and foremost, while we do download the hotword module on startup, we do not activate it unless you opt in to hotwording.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Starting and stopping the hotword module is controlled by some open source code in Chromium itself, so while you cannot see the code inside the module, you can trust that it is not actually going to run unless you opt in.
From the follow up:
Audio Capture Allowed: Can Chromium use the mic? (This is there for historical reasons, it’s always “Yes”.)"
The important one here is “Hotword Search Enabled”. If that says No, then the proprietary NaCl module is not running.
When you’re installing a version of GNU/Linux like Debian or Ubuntu onto a fresh computer, thousands of really smart people have analyzed every line of human-readable source code before that operating system was built into computer-executable binary code [..]
Right. That’s why we never had scandals like OpenSSL.
The part that’s really weird is that if those thousands of eyeballs had looked at chromium, wouldn’t they have seen the code that downloads the black box?
I mean, bugs are one thing, anybody can miss those. But the declared benefit here is that because it’s open source, everybody knows exactly what it does. No hidden downloads.
You can easily implement some sort of download feature, for example for downloading malware blacklists or whatever, and re-use it somewhere else for moving binary stuff around. Now imagine that this was split into four different changes over days/weeks, reviewed by different people each. The parts look innocent, but the sum of all allows you do download and run arbitrary binary code.
Which kinda undermines the claim that all open source software is well understood, no?
And that’s not what happened, is it? Google didn’t actually break this up into a dozen pieces and rot13 the filenames? The truth is nobody was watching.
There are good arguments for open software development; the ESR “bugs/eyes -> 0” is not one of them.
Raymondism: The deluded belief that free software defies Brooks' law, has fewer security exploits than non-free software and that just because thousands of people have access to the source code those same thousands of people will actually examine it."
the claim that all open source software is well understood
The claim is actually that open source software is better understood than the closed source one. This claim still stands.
I think this is true for many cases, but is not an iron-clad rule, particularly for large and complex software systems.
This article is from 2015. What is the status now?
Never forgive! Never forget!
It has been removed from Chromium, says ArsTechnica. This would be the “official announcement.”
This is why I can’t understand why Chrome still has the lion’s share of the browser market and Firefox is languishing. Get behind open standards folks. They’re important.
A lot of people are using Chrome because Google tells them to every time they login to gmail.
From an informed user standpoint, I use Firefox but Chromium has some appealing security features (privsep’d and sandboxed). Meanwhile Firefox has fun bugs like CVE-2015-4495 (I now run Firefox as a separate user), and this latest nonsense where the built-in certificate pins expired 3 weeks ago and no one noticed, leaving addon updates vulnerable to MITM.
The article states that Chrome says that it’s actively listening to the microphone audio. The bug report and the screenshot just show “Audio Capture Allowed” and nothing like “Audio Capture Active”.
While I don’t like Google for this actions, misrepresentation of unclear facts in articles like this one isn’t helpful either.