U.S. looks into Google plan to switch Chrome users to secure DNS protocol

The DNS over HTTPS protocol would encrypt some internet traffic and prevent ISPs from snooping on users' browsing habits

Chrome on Windows 10

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is looking into Google’s plan to make the internet more secure because it could lend the company a competitive advantage.

The Mountain View, California-based search giant plans to adopt the DNS over HTTPS (DoH) protocol in its popular Chrome browser. For those unfamiliar with the protocol, it promises to increase privacy and security by routing DNS traffic over secure HTTPS connections.

Domain name systems (DNS) acts as a sort of phone book for the internet. When users type in a website name — such as — a DNS service takes that and translates it into an internet protocol (IP) address, which is used by computers.

Typically, cable companies and internet service providers (ISPs) offer DNS services to users. In doing so, companies are also able to collect valuable data about users’ online behaviour.

While Google’s move toward DoH would help prevent hackers from spoofing or snooping on which websites users visit, it’d also prevent companies that don’t support DoH from accessing that data. It could also disrupt U.S. government agencies’ ability to spy on internet traffic.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Google asking for information about its “decision regarding whether to adopt or promote the adoption” of DoH. Investigators also inquired if Google would use data it collects or processes through the new protocol for commercial purposes. Finally, a person familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the Justice Department has received complaints regarding the protocol change.

DoH could let Google become the dominant DNS provider

Part of the concern is that Google operates its own DNS service, Google Public DNS. With Google’s choice to switch Chrome towards DoH, the fear is that it would send the majority of internet traffic through Google Public DNS. Considering the majority of browser and mobile traffic — thanks to Android — uses Chrome in some way, it’s a reasonable concern.

“Google has no plans to centralize or change people’s DNS providers to Google by default. Any claim that we are trying to become the centralized encrypted DNS provider is inaccurate,” Google told the WSJ in an email statement.

Google plans to begin testing DoH with about one percent of Chrome users beginning next month.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser, it also working to encrypt DNS data. It plans to have a small-scale rollout of DoH, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks. Mozilla intends to move most Firefox users in the U.S. over to DoH by the end of the year, even if that means switching their DNS provider. However, it doesn’t plan to move corporate users automatically.

It’s a more aggressive approach than what Google is taking, but cable companies fear the search giant could choose to rollout DoH similarly to Mozilla.

Mozilla actually came to Google’s defence. Its senior director of trust and safety, Marshall Erwin, told the WSJ that the antitrust concerns raised about Google are “fundamentally misleading.”

Source: Wall Street Journal