Chrome Canary on Android now allows site usage timers through Digital Wellbeing

Google unveiled Digital Wellbeing back at I/O, its annual developer conference, in 2018. The idea behind the feature is to let users monitor app usage and limit the time spent on certain apps or the phone itself. The feature went live later in the year, with only a select number of devices such as Google’s own Pixel line and certain phones that were a part of Android One receiving the feature.

While other app-makers too began adding Digital Wellbeing-like features to their apps, a Chromium Gerrit entry from a few months ago hinted at a feature that would let users limit website usage on Chrome for Android on devices running Android Q. Today, an update to Chrome Canary on Android has introduced a flag with the description “Share Usage Stats with Digital Wellbeing” that once enabled, allows Chrome Canary to link to the Digital Wellbeing feature on the phone and enable setting timers for websites through Chrome. The flag is termed “#usage-stats” (chrome://flags/#usage-stats).

The feature ties into the Digital Wellbeing dashboard to provide an option to set specific timers for websites by using the ‘PageViewObserver’ API and tracking how long a website is open for in Chrome. Since the tracking is “per-domain”, it must apply to the entire website against a set page. The internal codename for the project is “Chromeshine”.

Images: 9to5Google

Users that have enabled the flag should see an option inside the Digital Wellbeing Dashboard under Chrome Canary to “Show sites you visit”. The feature might currently be exclusive to Google since comments suggest that Digital Wellbeing is “the only client” for this feature and it is currently not known if third-parties will be given access to website usage data owing to “security issues” that have to be worked out.

For those concerned about privacy, it should be a relief that the feature will not track incognito tabs even if access to usage is turned on. The feature is currently exclusive to the Pixel line of devices and users running Chrome Canary (78.0.3870.0) on Android Q that have enabled the flag. It will be interesting to see if the feature will be exclusive to Chrome on Android Q when it ships to the general public, or if Google plans to support more devices on older versions of the OS with support for Digital Wellbeing.

Source: Chrome Story, 9to5Google

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