Monthly Archives: June 2015

Privacy issue associated with hot word detection in Chrome

A few Slimjet users has expressed concerns over the privacy issue when the voice search based on hot word detection is enabled in Chrome. They would like to know if such issue applies to Slimjet as well. We will explain what is going on with the voice search feature, what we think of it and how it affects Slimjet.

When the voice search feature is enabled in Chrome, it lets user activate voice search by speaking the hot word “Ok, Google”. The voice search is only enabled in the New Tab page and when you are visiting google.com website. To achieve this goal, the browser would have to constantly monitor what the user is saying in order to detect the hot word. Because Google’s voice recognition engine is cloud-based, that means whatever you say will be transmitted to Google’s server for analysis even if you are not really using the voice search feature. That does get a little creepy in my opinion. Users might not even be aware of the fact their entire speech is constantly being transferred to Google’s server when they have a new tab page or Google.com page open in their Chrome browser. We can’t be 100% sure what Google does exactly about those speech data, or if the government will want to tap those data to monitor the general public in some day.

If you are using the Nexus 5 phone, the hot word detection is enabled by default. But it clearly makes more sense in a mobile phone where voice search is much more convenient than clicking on the tiny keyword with your index finger. And it is only enabled when the home screen is visible. Therefore, its impact is much more limited. On a desktop computer, voice-search is not really a better way to input the keywords compared with your regular keyboard, considering the fact that voice recognition is still far from perfect nowadays. We believe it makes more sense to leave voice search as a manually activated feature with a mouse click.

In Slimjet, there is currently no support of hot word detection. You can only activate voice search in the New Tab page by clicking on the blue microphone icon at the right end of the search box as shown below,

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Therefore, in Slimjet, your speech won’t be transferred to Google’s voice recognition server unless you have manually activated voice search.

If you have any more concerns, please feel free to comment. The Slimjet team here is always committed to maximizing the privacy protection for our users.

Side bookmarks bar is finally here in Slimjet web browser

We have added support to show the bookmarks bar on the side of the web browser window in Slimjet 4.0.9.0. To activate the side bookmarks bar, select “Bookmarks->Show bookmarks bar->Show on side” from the main menu. You can also access it from the context menu when you right click on the bookmarks bar.

Here is a screenshot of it:

side-bookmarks-bar

You might ask why we are adding this feature since we already have the tree-based side bookmarks panel. Well, we think the tree-based side bookmark panel is not convenient enough. If you want to access the bookmarks within a subfolder, you need click the + sign on the left side of the folder to expand it first. In comparison, the side bookmarks bar acts just like the top bookmarks bar, using the same popup menu to access bookmarks within folders and subfolders. You only have to move the mouse to navigate into subfolders without any additional clicking. Compared with the top bookmarks bar, the side bookmarks bar can show about twice as many bookmarks at the same time, making them available within one-click access.

There are people who might argue that the side bookmarks bar take more space from your screen. The truth is, nowadays most monitors have wide 16:9 ratio. When you view a web page, you usually have more than enough screen width you can use. On the height side, every little space is more precious. Therefore, it actually makes more sense for most people to use a vertical bookmarks bar on the side than a horizontal bookmarks bar on the top. However, we do understand the power of tradition and habits. We still keep the top bookmarks bar as the default layout and leave side bookmarks as an option for advanced users who want to have more bookmarks within one-click access.

There are a lot users who also requested for the top bookmarks bar to support multiple row so that it can show more bookmarks. We say side bookmarks bar is a better solution to the problem.

Feel free to share your comments.