How to prevent sites from requesting inactive detection API permissions in Chrome
Google introduced a controversial API in Google Chrome 94 this month. Called Idle Detection API, it allows sites to query the device to find out if it is idle or in active use. A device enters an idle state if it is not actively used for a period of time; the API can request the idle status of components or events, such as keyboard, mouse, or screen saver.
Google suggests that sites could use it for a number of useful applications, such as revealing whether contacts in chat are available, resetting kiosk systems automatically after a period, or running costly calculations only if the user is not idle.
Critics of the Idle Detection API, Mozilla and Apple specifically, point out that it has the potential for abuse. While it is true that users must grant permissions to sites before access to the Inactive Discovery API is granted, sites can convince users to grant permission. Engineers at companies believe that the API can be abused for obscure usage patterns or to run costly calculations when the device is idle.
Mozilla and Apple decided that Firefox and Safari will not support the Inactive Detection API, at least not in their current form. Chrome users and those running Chromium-based browsers will get the API. Some companies can disable it in their browsers, others cannot.
Chrome is a good example. The API is already implemented in Chrome 94 Stable, and users can view requests from sites to give them permission. The default setting is “ask”, which means that sites will ask the user for permission each time a site is visited. Sites can be blacklisted or whitelisted to permanently block them or allow API access without requests.
Chrome users can block all requests automatically by changing the default site permission status. Site requests will be automatically denied if the change is made. The same configuration can also work in other Chromium-based browsers that have implemented the API and have not disabled it.
This is what needs to be done:
- Load chrome: // settings / content / idleDetection into the address bar of the web browser.
- Change the default behavior state from “Sites may ask if you are actively using your device” to “Do not let sites know when you are actively using your device.”
Chrome will no longer show permission requests once the change has been made. Just change the preference again if you need to reset it. Another option you have is to add sites to the allowed list, as they can use the API without a request message.
Now you: What’s your take on the idle detection API? (via Techdows)