Microsoft Edge ignores user wishes, slurps tabs from Chrome without permission
What goes together better than Redmond and respecting people's preferences? Everything, really
Updated Windows users, take notice: Microsoft's Edge browser is said to be actively importing open Chrome tabs and slurping other data from Google's browser without permission and even if the "feature" that makes that happen is disabled.
Buried within Edge's browser settings on Windows PCs is code that goes well beyond a one-time import of favorites and stored passwords, and has been present in some form as far back as mid-2022 at least. It gives gives Edge the ability to import practically all browser data from Chrome each time Redmond's browser is launched.
Ostensibly a way for Microsoft to simplify the process of getting Windows users to switch to Edge, the feature has a classic Microsoft problem: it's right now doing so without full permission, according to users. As the Windows maker is wont to do, it'll also sync that data to the cloud too, provided users are signed into a Microsoft account - not great if you had intended to keep your Chrome and Edge environments separated.
More data for Redmond; even less privacy for users, as we've covered in the past.
Windows users – even those who don't make a habit of using Edge – have been reporting problems and unexpected surprises with the import feature since last year. Other outlets have covered the feature's greedy nature and suggested steps to stop it dead (for example by opening up
edge://settings/profiles/importBrowsingData and making sure it's off), but reader responses to those stories suggest settings don't matter, and the import happens regardless.
The issue was most recently flagged up again this week by The Verge's Tom Warren, who said he noticed Edge opening on a system reboot in the same state that Chrome was in before the restart. Warren claimed he neither imported Chrome data to Edge nor gave it permission to import open browser tabs from Chrome, yet there it was. Warren said he never toggled the setting on, and that it was off when he checked.
Taking a quick spin around the internet, it's clear that this is happening to plenty of people – data being pulled into Edge by default, without permission – though it doesn't appear universal.
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Multiple Microsoft support threads from the past few months allege the same issue – that Edge is importing data from Chrome unexpectedly, even when the setting is toggled off. Several posts on Reddit allege the same.
Responses from Microsoft staff and independent advisers suggest checking
ImportBrowsingData settings as well as manually disabling auto import by manually adding a registry key to Group Policy settings, but responses are universal: Nothing seems to turn it off.
Reports that Edge is opening on startup populated with Chrome tabs that were open before reboot appear to have flared up following a Windows 11 update, KB5034204, released on January 23. This update seems to be heavily forcing the feature on users in one way or another.
Other folks have reported similar issues with Edge asserting itself dressed in Chrome's data since installing the update, though security researcher Zach Edwards noted on X/Twitter that Microsoft may have an excuse this time. Screens in the update installation steps mention Edge will "regularly bring in data from other browsers available on your Windows device."
It's all out in the open – somewhat – since Microsoft stuck a brief mention of it in splash screens with the installation of the infamous KB5034204 update.
Beyond the issues with Edge, KB5034204 appears to have a number of issues affecting lots of Windows 11 users, as evidenced by a Reddit thread posted a few days after its rollout. Users have reported failed installations and boot issues, while other sites have reported broken apps, file explorer and taskbar trouble and other issues. We've reached out to Microsoft again to inquire about broader problems with KB5034204, but haven't heard back about that, either.
Regardless of whether Microsoft asked permission for Edge to ingest data from other browsers in that update, the issue isn't new - it's well documented in forum posts and help requests. We've asked Microsoft for an explanation, and while we're told they're looking into it, we have yet to receive an actual response.
In the meantime, best to hold off installing the latest round of Windows 11 updates until Microsoft patches the patch. Or explains itself. Ah, who are we kidding. We've asked for comment. ®
Updated to add
Microsoft has so far declined to comment. A person familiar with the kerfuffle who has visibility into the Windows giant, though who did not want to be identified, told us it appears that "if a user chose continuous import in the Edge first run experience on some other device, this state may be syncing incorrectly across their devices. This is not the intended feature experience." We're assured that Microsoft is addressing it for the next Edge Stable release.