Technology 3 min read

Google Says its not Killing Ad Blockers, Just Making Them Safer

Developers are rallying against Google, claiming that the tech giant made deliberate changes to Chrome extensions to eliminate ad blockers and other anti-tracking tools.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

For the past months, developers have been closely monitoring Google‘s Chrome extension changes, collectively known as the Manifest V3. Reports claimed that the changes didn’t sit well with developers of ad blockers and anti-tracking extensions because Google allegedly diminished the efficacy of their tools.

Manifest V3 was initially announced last year. Back then, the tech giant said in a statement:

“We’ve recently taken a number of steps toward improved extension security with the launch of out-of-process iframes, the removal of inline installation, and significant advancements in our ability to detect and block malicious extensions using machine learning.”

Still, developers remained unimpressed with Google’s actions, citing that the company’s only trying to eliminate ad blockers.

No, Chrome isn’t killing ad blockers — we’re making them safer,” Chrome extensions team member Devlin Cronin said.

“These and other changes have driven down the rate of malicious installations by 89% since early 2018.”

Chrome Ad Blockers are not Dead

According to Cronin, the changes they implemented were driven by their desire “to keep users safe and give them more visibility and control over the data they’re sharing with extensions.”

The Google developer explained that their actions aim to encourage users to be cautious in allowing extensions access to their sensitive information like emails, social media accounts, and photos.

Google allegedly reviewed how powerful APIs work then looked for new ways their developers could only request access to relevant data to accomplish the same functionalities.

As one of the solutions, Google replaced some parts of the Web Request API with Declarative Net Request API. This change no longer requires extensions to access all the sensitive data of users to block content.

However, replacing Web Request API became controversial since it’s been widely used in developing many extensions, especially ad blockers. In a statement, developers behind the privacy extension Ghostery condemned Google’s actions:

“This would basically mean that Google is destroying ad blocking and privacy protection as we know it. They pretend to do this for the sake of privacy and browser performance, however in reality, users would be left with only very limited ways to prevent third parties from intercepting their surfing behavior or to get rid of unwanted content.

Essentially, this means an extension can send Chrome/chromium a list of blocking patterns and Chrome/chromium will do the blocking based on these patterns. It will, however, no longer be possible to modify or kill potentially dangerous or privacy-invading requests. The proposal would impose huge limitations on extension developers and would make it more difficult for users to protect themselves.”

Cronin said that while they understand developers will be required to update the way their extensions work, Google believes that allowing users to limit the sensitive data they share with third-parties is still the right choice.

Read More: New Firefox Blocks Google Analytics And Other Website Tracking Tools

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Rechelle Ann Fuertes

Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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