Google had to force-stop the rollout of the Chrome 79 update to Android devices over the weekend following the discovery of a destructive bug that is obliterating user data on mobile applications; unfortunately the update for Android has already been offered to 50 percent of the user base.
The bug discovery comes after the release last week of Chrome 79 – a major update for the Chrome browser in Windows, Mac, Android and iOS – which includes new features such as a password checking tool, AI-based cyber security features and a new UI for user profiles.
Last Friday; users took to Chromium bug forums to complain and raise the red flag: “We have verified that all our clients with Chrome/webview updated to v79 have lost all their app data,” one wrote, while another user notes that all of their application users’ encrypted login information “has been wiped and they can’t remember their credentials (and resetting them are practically impossible in the case of our app).”
The issue appears to emanate from the two storage mechanisms used by Chrome and mobile devices; WebSQL and Localstorage. These mechanisms let websites and applications store data directly on a user’s device as part of their Chrome profile. When the Chrome 79 update was downloaded it seems to have wiped or not migrated all of the data that was stored locally into the Chrome 78 profiles directory.
Chrome 79 Android Bug and Fixes
The Chrome 79 update has been pushed out to 50 percent of Android users with early developer data suggesting that roughly 10 percent of those users have actually installed the buggy update. Yet, considering that Chrome has over 60 percent of the global market share for mobile browsers, 10 percent is a significant chunk of users.
As application developers and users turn to Chromium bug forums for answers and fixes, a Chromium engineer responded to an anxious forum that “we are currently discussing the correct strategy for resolving this issue which will be one of:
a) continue the migration, moving the missed files into their new locations.
b) revert the change by moving migrated files to their old locations.”
Unfortunately, there may not be an easy fix for the issue as one Chromium code committer notes that: “Fixing this now is going to also be destructive – we can add additional migration code to check if this file was left behind and move it, but that will overwrite the *new* location and replace any newly stored data with the old data.”
“Trying to merge the local storage databases together doesn’t seem super feasible and would still unavoidably cause data loss in the case where the same site has already set data in both copies.”
More Files in the Google Soup
The Chrome 79 update issue is another buggy fly in Google’s ointment as it follows last months ‘White Screen of Death’ bug that affected thousands of enterprise users after Google pushed out an update to the Chrome Browser stable release channels.
The issue occurred when a code change was pushed out as part of the WebContents Occlusion feature which suspends Chrome tabs when users move other apps on top of them, this is done to free browser resources.
Unfortunately, Google only tested it out on 1 percent of its users base, which apparently was nowhere near enough as one user noted that: “At my organization, nearly 100% of our users (~300) running in Citrix virtual desktops were directly effected for 2 full business days. Our main line of business application runs in Chrome and the result of the Occlusion flag being enabled, our staff was unable to effectively service customers.”