Google kicks out Chrome extensions after code changes bring unwanted ads

google removes chrome extensions cookies adid

Weeks after changing its terms of service in an effort to force Chrome extension developers to keep their software “simple and single-purpose in nature”, Google has kicked out two from its Web store after violating the new rules.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the offending browser extensions – Add to Feedly and Tweet This Page – began to serve up ads after they were silently updated with adware code.

The Journal said that the new code, which injected ads onto pages where they wouldn’t usually appear, was introduced to the two extensions after the owners sold their work on to other developers who then introduced the monetization features to the software.

After the extensions started to serve up unwanted ads, their five-star ratings in the Chrome store quickly dropped to just one, with many users jumping onto message boards to air their grievances.

The move by Google over the weekend to remove the software from its store has shone a light on the practice of buying and selling extensions and their related data, and is a reminder of  how Chrome extensions are automatically updated in the background without the user knowing. In contrast, Firefox allows users of its add-ons to choose between manually checking for updates or having them installed automatically. 

‘A bad  decision’

Add To Feedly‘s developer Amit Agarwal said in a recent blog post that selling his extension was “a bad decision.”

A month after making the four-figure sale, the new owner pushed an update to the Chrome store that “didn’t bring any new features to the table nor contained any bug fixes. Instead, they incorporated advertising into the extension,” Agarwal said.

“These aren’t regular banner ads that you see on web pages, these are invisible ads that work the background and replace links on every website that you visit into affiliate links.”

He continued, “The business model of the buyer is simple – they buy popular add-ons, inject affiliate links and the bulk of users would never notice this since the Chrome browser automatically updates add-ons in the background. And there are no changelogs either.”

A member of the developer team for a Chrome extension called Honey, which has around 270,000 users, revealed on Reddit recently that several offers have also come its way in the past year.

“We’ve been approached by malware companies that have tried to buy the extension, data collection companies that have tried to buy user data, and adware companies that have tried to partner with us,” Honey’s developer said, adding, “We turned them all down.”

While the best browser extensions can help to personalize your Web experience and introduce a ton of new functionality, it’s clear that if they fall into the wrong hands somewhere down the line, they can quickly become a lost cause for many users. If the practice of new owners introducing unwanted functionality causes increasing problems, Google may consider offering users the option to turn off automatic updates, or at the least, notifying them when an extension changes hands.

Computing

Mozilla’s built-in price-tracking extension makes it easy to shop with Firefox

Mozilla has heard those worries about Black Friday shopping, and is now introducing a new set of experimental extensions which aim to make it easier to find the best deals online.
Computing

Our 10 favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Mobile

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, with each suited for a different occasion.
Computing

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

Style up your MacBook Air with one of these great cases or sleeves

Whether you’re looking for added protection or a stylish flourish, you’re in the right place for the best MacBook Air cases. We have form-hugging cases, luxurious covers and padded sleeves priced from $7 to $130. Happy shopping!
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Gaming

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Computing

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

If you're running into multi-monitor problems, you're not alone. Two screens are very useful, but they can present some difficulties. Here are some common multi-monitor problems and how to fix them.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, but it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Computing

All the best deals on Surface products for Black Friday

A number of retailers are discounting Surface devices for Black Friday. Be it the Surface Pro 2017, Surface Pro 6, or the Surface Go, here's a look at how (and where) you can save big on Surface this holiday season.