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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Get out of the way Chrome!

10 October 2018

I am a big boy now.

I have been tying my own shoelaces and wearing long pants for longer than I can remember.

When I go to the toilet, I wipe my own bottom and always remember to wash my hands.

These are the things that big boys do.

I feel that, at the age of 65, I am old enough and responsible enough to make most decisions for myself and I get angry when some upstart web browser who isn't even out of puberty yet, starts telling me what I can and can't do.

That is why I do not use Google Chrome and, after an announcement this week, it's even less likely that I ever will.

I do have Chrome installed on a couple of my computers but once I found out that some of the sites I needed to use were unable to be loaded due to the browser's over-zealous inspection of site certificates and other potential "dangers", I went back to Firefox.

I could not believe that relatively innocuous sites, which loaded fine with Firefox and which I *knew* were not a risk to myself or my computer, were effectively blocked by Chrome.

As I said... I'm a big boy and I wish to be free to make my own decisions when accessing such sites. I don't want some programmer in California telling me that I'm too stupid to decide such things.

Well now it's about to get a whole lot worse, if you're a Chrome user.

According to reports Chrome 70 will break a huge number of sites by deciding it knows better than the user and by refusing to allow its security warnings to be ignored or over-ridden.

This will happen because the browser will be no longer trusting a huge swathe of security certificates issued by organisations which ultimately used Symantec as their source.

Some of the sites which are still using these certificates include at least a couple of banks and credit unions as well as high-performance car-maker Ferrari.

I guess one could argue that people need to be protected from threats online and in the case of certs issued by Symantec, it has been shown that users of some sites have been subjected to man-in-the-middle attacks as a result of that issuer's practices.

However, I believe that ultimately, the user should always be given the right to ignore such warnings and proceed at their own risk. By all means warn us, but do not dictate to us which sites we can and can't view.

I guess there are no "real men" left in cyberspace and increasingly, we rely on our browsers to protect us against the bogeyman.

What do readers think?

Is Chrome doing the right thing by effectively flagging thousands of totally valid certificates as untrustworthy and blocking access to the sites that use them? Or are they doing us all a service and the burden must now fall on the operators of those sites to pay for new certificates from a still-trusted source?

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