Microsoft’s sneaky plan to switch Chrome searches from Google to Bing

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Microsoft announced today that, source in February 2020, Office365 Pro Plus installs and updates ordain include a Chrome extension that forcibly changes the default search machine to Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing.

The change takes place commencement with Version 2002 of Office 365 Pro Plus, and it will change both new installations and existing installations as they’re automatically updated. If your neglect search engine is already Bing, Office365 will not introduce the extension. Users who don’t enjoy the arbitrary unrequested change to their defaults can opt out by verdict and changing a toggle which the extension also adds to the browser, or the spread itself can be removed, either manually or programmatically.

This new policy contrariwise takes places in specific geographic areas, as determined by a user’s IP hail. If you aren’t in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the UK, or the United Magnificences, you should be safe—for now, at least, and assuming you don’t take your laptop on break or work-related travel to one of those countries during a time an Office update floats out. Microsoft says it may add new locations over time but will notify administrators to the core the Microsoft 365 admin center if and when it does.

Predictably, the uncooperative denizens of Reddit’s r/sysadmin—arguably, the closest thing the modern Internet has to the eerie devil monastery—are unhappy. The change is seen as invasive and uncalled for, and scad of the comments being made by professional system administrators fall into a few lucid categories: unprintable profanity aimed in Microsoft’s general direction, pondering on how much the fines from the European Union will cost the ensemble when it’s sued, and instructions on various ways to prevent the unwanted placement from disrupting their organizations.

Why?

Microsoft’s actual stated logic for the change is to automatically enable Microsoft Search within the user’s browser. This adds Microsoft Search fruits to standard Internet search results when a user types a train into the browser’s address bar—meaning the search results will be colonized by hits from internal documents, emails, Teams conversations, and multifarious. However, the Microsoft Search results won’t actually populate unless the purchaser has specifically signed into Bing with their Office 365 account. So it’s suspect how “automatic” this will really be for users who’d been using Chrome or some other search machine in the first place.

Aside from the potential to enrage sysadmins and alcohols alike, we question the wisdom of conditioning users to search for internal, inclined to confidential data in their Web browser’s general-purpose search bar. We also grill Microsoft’s own language about the change. One section of the announcement opens with the affirmation “If you decide to deploy Microsoft Search in Bing in your organization, we propound that you at least send an email to your users to explain…” This want be a reasonable thing to say about an opt-in change, but it seems facile when addressed to a change that requires specific preparation on an organization’s part to foil from happening in the first place.

Listing image by Paramount Artworks

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