Desktop users of Google’s Chrome browser have long enjoyed the advantages of the Safe Browsing feature, which protects them from the shady and often outright malicious parts of the internet. Android users were left to fend for themselves, at least until very recently. Google has announced that Safe Browsing is active on Android, and you probably already have it on your phone or tablet.
Safe Browsing is a way of proactively protecting users when they browse the web. If your browser attempts to access a site that is known to host malware, phishing scams, or other gross stuff, you’ll get a big red warning page that blocks the connection. Just hit the “Back to safety” button to return to the previous page.
Google began enabling the Safe Browsing system with the update to Google Play Services 8.1, which was automatically pushed to Android devices in late August. The first version of Chrome to take advantage of it was v46, which hit the beta channel around the same time. The stable version went out to users in mid-October.
Google says this is important in safeguarding all the data on your phone, but it has taken time to get the system just right for mobile devices. In many regions, data connectivity is severely limited, and in developed countries most carriers still only offer capped data plans. Google needs to make sure the Safe Browsing list doesn’t get stale, but it doesn’t want to waste everyone’s bandwidth with constant updates.
Google plans to address this by pushing the riskiest items on the list first, then it’ll trickle everything else in. Some phishing scams that only target users in certain areas of the world will only be added to the Safe Browsing list for people in those regions.