The Microsoft Edge browser has been leaking the URLs visited by its users to the Bing API website. A Reddit user has discovered the privacy issue as the newest version of Microsoft Edge sends a request to bingapis.com with the URL of almost every page a user has visited.
Microsoft told The Verge it is investigating the reports. (Related: How Microsoft is engineering massive, nationwide criminal election fraud with the help of a shady browser plug-in called “NewsGuard”)
“Searching for references to this URL gives very few results, no documentation on this feature at all,” said Hackermchackface, the Reddit user who first found out about the problem.
It is not clear why Microsoft Edge is transmitting the URLs a user has visited to its Bing API site. But Rafael Rivera, a software engineer and one of the developers of EarTrumpet, found during an investigation that it is part of a poorly applied recent feature in Microsoft Edge.
“Microsoft Edge now has a creator follow feature that is enabled by default. It appears the intent was to notify Bing when you’re on certain pages, such as YouTube, The Verge and Reddit. But it doesn’t appear to be working correctly, instead sending nearly every domain you visit to Bing,” Rivera told The Verge.
Microsoft initially began testing this latest creator follow feature in Microsoft Edge last year before rolling it out more broadly in the past few months. It was designed to allow users to follow their favorite content creators on YouTube and across the web. If a user disables the feature, URLs are no longer sent to bingapis.com.
URL leak has huge privacy implications
The leak of URLs a user has visited to bingapis.com has huge privacy implications, especially when this functionality is enabled by default. “We’re aware of reports, are investigating and will take appropriate action to address any issues,” said Caitlin Roulston, director of communications at Microsoft, in a statement.
Until Microsoft finishes its investigation and resolves the problem, it is highly recommended that users turn off the follow creators feature in Microsoft Edge. Chances are users never intend to use it, so it is not a function that they will miss at all.
Microsoft has not yet given any explanation about why URLs are being sent to the bingapis.com service or how Microsoft Edge has been configured to send almost all of the sites a user visits over to Bing.
The new Bing is described as “a research assistant, personal planner and creative partner at your side whenever you search the web.”
When a user asks complex questions, Bing can provide detailed responses. Bing can also give an actual answer by looking at search results across the web to give a summarized answer. When a user wants to be creative or needs some inspiration, Bing can help write poems and stories, share ideas for a project or even create a brand-new image.
In the chat experience, a user can ask follow-up questions to get different and more detailed answers. The new Bing also goes beyond generating a list of relevant links by consolidating reliable sources across the web to give a user a summarized answer.
Knowing the sites visited by a user may have helped Bing perform these functions.
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