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Microsoft stole my Chrome tabs, and it wants yours too

Microsoft stole my Chrome tabs, and it wants yours too

Last week, I turned on my PC, installed a Windows update, and rebooted to find that Microsoft Edge was automatically open along with the Chrome tab I was working on before the update. I don't use Microsoft Edge regularly, and I have Google Chrome set as my default browser. As my eyes blurred at 9 a.m., it took me a moment to realize that Microsoft Edge had taken over in Chrome where I left off. I couldn't believe my eyes.

I never imported my data into Microsoft Edge, nor did I confirm whether I wanted to import my tabs or not. But here Edge was automatically opening after Windows update along with all the Chrome tabs I was working on. I didn't even realize I was using Edge at first, and I was confused as to why all my tabs were suddenly logged out.

After the shock wore off, I focused on making sure I didn't accidentally allow this behavior. I found a setting in Microsoft Edge that imports data from Google Chrome on each launch. "Always have access to your recent browsing data whenever you browse on Microsoft Edge," Microsoft's description of the feature in Edge reads. This setting was disabled, and I was never asked to turn it on. You can check the setting at edge://settings/profile/importbrowsingdata.

So I went to install the same Windows update on the laptop, which actually resulted in it failing and I had to do a system restore. Once the system restore completed, the same thing happened. Edge opened automatically along with all my Chrome tabs. I haven't been able to replicate this behavior on other PCs, but several

It seems this is all related to the largely unreported import feature in Microsoft Edge which I confirmed was disabled on my system. Zack Edwards, a privacy and data supply chain researcher, recently installed Windows and replied to my post on

With your confirmation, Microsoft Edge will regularly fetch data from other browsers available on your Windows device. This data includes your favourites, browsing history, cookies, autofill data, extensions, settings and other browsing data.

Microsoft says the data import is completed locally and stored locally, but if you sign in and sync your browsing data it will be sent to Microsoft. Microsoft Windows displays a large blue Accept button to encourage users to enable the feature, displaying a darker "Not Now" button if you want to opt out.

I'm not entirely sure how Microsoft Edge automatically opened and imported my Chrome browser data without enabling this setting. I noticed on my PC that morning after installing the update a full-screen prompt appeared, much like the one Microsoft uses to encourage people to switch to Edge and Bing after a Windows update. The prompt appeared but disappeared in less than a second, so it's possible that this dialog crashed and Edge decided to import anyway.

I asked Microsoft for comment on what I saw, but the company did not respond in time for publication.

I'm not alone in experiencing this. Many Windows users have been reporting this for months and have turned to Reddit and Microsoft's own support forums for help. Posters have confirmed that the same feature is disabled, but data continues to be imported.

Maybe it was just a bug for me this time, or maybe I'm about to experience what other people have been complaining about for months. But it is clear that Microsoft is introducing a feature to automatically import Chrome, Firefox or other browser data from any web browser that is not Edge. This may be a useful feature for some people, but if it is faulty, Microsoft needs to fix it quickly.

Given the full-screen prompt that disappeared just before I experienced the problem, how Microsoft convinces people to turn on this setting will also be important. Microsoft is already creating full-screen prompts after some Windows updates to try to entice people to switch to Microsoft Edge and Bing as default.

It's not always obvious to consumers what exactly they're changing, especially when Microsoft hides things as "recommended" browser settings. It's easier to press a big blue Yes button instead of a "Not Now" button that is less prominent. Microsoft has a history of using tactics seen by bloatware and spyware developers to promote its web browser. These include Windows Update

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