There’s not a single web browser out there that comes with all the features you could ever want, which is why extensions are such an awesome thing, but there is a downside to them. Whereas web browsers come from one group of developers that you know you can trust, extensions come from a variety of different developers from all over the world, and some of them like to gather information on you without you knowing. Fortunately, Chome users won’t have to worry about this in a few months, as Google is planning to require developers to notify users whenever their extensions collect data on them.
Google is about to make it harder for Chrome extensions to collect your browsing data without letting you know about it, according to a new policy announced Friday. Starting in mid-July, developers releasing Chrome extensions will have to comply with a new User Data Policy that governs how they collect, transmit and store private information. Extensions will have to encrypt personal and sensitive information, and developers will have to disclose their privacy policies to users. Developers will also have to post a “prominent disclosure” when collecting sensitive data that isn’t related to a prominent feature. That’s important, because extensions have tremendous power to track users’ browsing habits and then use that for nefarious purposes. With this change, an extension that’s marketed as a way to add themes to social media sites but also scrapes the number of friends a user has on that site for sale or research purposes will have to prominently tell users about it. By requiring developers to be up front about what they might be collecting behind the scenes, Google can help make sure that its users are protected from shady extensions, and make sure that people know how their information is being used.