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Chrome's parental controls step closer to adulthood

The previously-announced "Supervised Users" option moves into Google Chrome beta, and two Chrome security engineers begin work on a "paranoid mode."

Supervised Users gives Chrome OS a long-missing feature: parental controls.

Google Chrome's rumored parental control feature moved into Chrome beta on Tuesday, and it stands to make Chrome and Chrome OS even more appealing to parents and teachers.

Chromebooks have done well in the United States, capturing around a quarter of the sub-$300 PC market in the past year. The low-price laptops also have gained attention from educators, in part because of their price, but also because they include keyboards, essential for teaching children typing skills.

Supervised Users would give Chrome OS a long-missing feature: multiple accounts that can be differentiated by privilege status. For now, a supervised account would allow the primary Chrome OS user to create a secondary account that could be monitored. Parents will be able to review browsing history, create whitelists and blacklists of Web sites, and manage permissions for blocked sites to which the Supervised User has requested access.

The blog post by Chrome engineer Pam Greene said Google will be looking to expand the feature set beyond what ships in the current beta for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS.

Two Chrome security engineers are also working on an extension that enables what they described on Twitter as "paranoid mode." Nasko Oskov and Chris Palmer tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that they had built an extension, labeled "Flake" in the screenshots, that allows users to toggle the security level of Web traffic handled by Chrome.

"Paranoid mode" is a project, currently in rough stages, that could eventually give users more options to secure Web traffic in Chrome. Chris Palmer/Google

"It is currently implemented only as a personal experiment inside an extension," Oskov tweeted, but the implications could be big for Chrome users. Flake appears to let people set the flow of Web traffic to one of three settings: Offline mode, Allow only HTTPS Traffic, and Upgrade HTTP traffic to HTTPS.

Although Oskov says that it's been in development for a year, it sounds like it hasn't been the focus of his coding efforts, hence the slow progress.

While HTTPS isn't a foolproof security barrier, it does make the traffic sent using it more secure. The extension could be a big boon to privacy-minded Chrome users.