Chrome Idle Detection API

Disable Idle Detection API in Google Chrome. How to block websites from requestion Idle Detection API permissions in Google Chrome.

The Idle Detection API is a web browser API that developers can use to detect when the user has become idle. Using this API, a website can determine whether the user is interacting with their browser and take certain actions based on that information.

For example, a website could use idle detection to log out a user after 30 minutes of inactivity or stop video playback after 10 minutes so as to save bandwidth.

The Idle Detection API was first introduced in Chrome 52 and is still only available in Chrome.

This has led to some controversy as the Idle Detection API, while certainly useful for app developers, does lead to the potential for its abuse.

While it is true, that users are required to specifically give permissions to sites before they can access Idle Detection API, however, critics do point out that in a real-world environment, not every user can be expected to be aware of the permissions that they are granting.

This is especially true for users such as senior citizens or even children who may accidentally grant such permissions to websites without realizing the consequences.

A prime example of abuse is the rising number of cyber frauds which are specifically targeted towards such an age group.

Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari have come out very strongly against this feature and have announced their intention to not support this feature. According to them, this can lead to invasion of privacy and misuse.

Microsoft Edge has not stated its position on this as yet.

What is Idle Detection API in Google Chrome?

The Idle Detection API is a browser feature that allows websites to detect when a user is inactive. This can be used, for example, to display a video or audio playback control when the user is inactive for a period of time. It can also be used to trigger an action, such as pausing video playback, when the user becomes idle.

The Idle Detection API is not currently widely used by websites. However, some popular websites, such as YouTube, do use it. If you’re concerned about privacy or security, you may want to block websites from requesting Idle Detection API permissions in Google Chrome.

Why websites want permission for Idle Detection

When a website makes use of the Idle Detection API, it will request permission from the user via the Notification Permission API.

This allows the user to decide whether they’re happy for that website to detect when they’re idle or not, via a pop-up notification like this one:

Asking for permission before using the Idle Detection API protects users’ privacy by giving them control over what data they share with websites.

The fact that users are prompted before a website can detect when they’re idle also prevents malicious websites from tracking their activity without their knowledge or consent.

Is the Idle Detection API feature dangerous in Chrome Browser?

The Idle Detection API is a powerful tool that can be used to track user activity and detect idle periods. However, this same API can also be abused by malicious actors in order to collect user data or interfere with normal operations. It is therefore important to understand how the Idle Detection API works and how it can be misused before using it in your own applications.

When the Idle Detection API is used properly, it can be a valuable asset for tracking user activity or detecting when a user has been inactive for an extended period of time. However, there are a few potential ways in which this API could be abused. For example, a malicious actor could use the API to track a user’s activity and location over time or to interfere with the normal operation of an application.

It is therefore important to be aware of these potential risks before using the Idle Detection API in your own applications. If you do decide to use this API, be sure to take steps to protect your users’ data and privacy, and consider implementing safeguards to prevent abuse.

Related: How to Install 3rd Party Apps on Chrome OS

Different applications of Idle Detection API 

The Idle Detection API can be used for a variety of purposes, both legitimate and malicious. For example, a legitimate application may use the API to monitor user activity in order to optimize power consumption. A malicious application, on the other hand, may use the API to surreptitiously record user activity or enforce time limits on usage.

When used for legitimate purposes, the Idle Detection API can be a useful tool for reducing power consumption. However, when used for malicious purposes, the Idle Detection API can be a powerful tool for surveillance and control. It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with this API before using it.

How to Disable Idle Detection API Access to websites

If you’re concerned about websites requesting Idle Detection API permissions in Google Chrome, you can follow the steps below to block them.

Method 1:

Google Chrome Settings

1. Open the Google Chrome settings menu by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner of the browser window.

Privacy and Security settings in Chrome

2. Click “Privacy and security” at the left of the settings menu.

Site Settings in Chrome

3. Under the “Privacy and security” section, click “Site Settings.”

Additional Permissions in Chrome Settings

4. Click on “Additional Permissions” in the list of site settings.

Locating Your Device Use Option

5. Toggle off the switch next to “Ask before sending (recommended)” to disable notifications from all sites. Alternatively, you can click on “Add” under the “Blocked” section and enter the URL of the site you want to block.

Locating and Disabling Idle Detection
Disabling Idle Detection

6. Close the settings menu.

Now, when you visit a website that tries to request Idle Detection API permissions, you will see a message saying “Permission blocked by Chrome.”

If you ever need to allow a website to request Idle Detection API permissions again, you can follow the steps above and toggle the switch back to “Ask before sending (recommended)” or remove the site from the “Blocked” section. 


Method 2:

Shortcut in settings for Disabling Idle Detection
  1. Type chrome://settings/content/idleDetection in Chrome’s address bar.
  2. Toggle the Default behavior state from “Sites can ask to know when you’re actively using your device” to “Don’t allow sites to know when you’re actively using your device”.
How to Disable Idle Detection API in Google Chrome


All in all, I would say that the API for idle detection is a bit too gray. Is it necessary? Probably. Is it abused? Maybe. Will there be a way to get rid of it for good soon? Maybe.

Idle detection API is useful and Google has given permission only to trustworthy websites, but there may be more pointless requests from less reliable websites in the future when more of us will enable this API.

Food for thought!

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