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-ness culture that so characterizes the embattled tech industry. WEI makes it more difficult for you to run your own software, and easier for companies to stop you from running your own or custom software if that software does not meet their requirements.
WEI also makes it substantially more difficult for new browsers to emerge. That’s because any new browser wishing to participate in a WEI-documented world would have to deal with the same legal rat’s nest as the ones creating the WEI proposal. It’s extremely unlikely that a new browser startup could deal with these issues quickly.
WEI may come packaged in the language of “security” and “privacy” but make no mistake – its primary purpose is to maintain the status quo and forestall substantial changes in how the web works.
WEI may not be the biggest problem with the web today, but it’s definitely a knot worth untying.
Today, we’re talking about Google’s Web Environment Integrity (WEI). This new Chrome feature hopes to reduce ad fraud, but it may also impact users’ control and privacy over their own computer. Let’s take a look at what WEI is and why Google’s proposal shouldn’t be pursued.
Firstly, some background. When a web browser connects to a web server, it provides information about your device and browser. This data helps the server to tailor its services and offers to you, but also may raise privacy concerns via browser fingerprinting.
Privacy tools can give users control by allowing them to send false information about their device. This way, services can’t discriminate against users who choose to reject cookies and other forms of tracking. This is where remote attestation comes in.
Most modern devices are shipped with secure computing capability. This monitoring system can be used to make sure users are running the manufacturer’s code, but can also be used to stop them from intentionally running different code. Secure enclaves and TPMs can also cryptographically sign information about the computer to provide an attestation.
Ideally, these attestations give users control and security. However, Google’s WEI proposal would override this control and make it more difficult for users to run their own software or configurations. It would also raise the entry-level for new browsers, reducing competition in the industry.
At the end of the day, WEI may come with the language of security and privacy, but its primary purpose is to maintain the status quo and forestall substantial changes in the way the web works – something that Google should not pursue