Extensions are such an integral part of the modern web experience that it’s hard to imagine using a browser without any. But they’re not without their faults. Like mobile apps, browser plugins offer developers another way to collect and sell your data to advertisers. We’ve all run into those extensions that ask for permission to see everything you do online. Thankfully, Google will implement new Chrome policies in 2021 will give you more control over how much data they can collect.
Next year, when you add a new plugin to Chrome, you’ll have say over whether it can access a website you visit, not the other way around. You’ll still have the option to grant an extension access to all the websites you visit, but that won’t be the default in the future. Instead, you can pick and choose on a case by case basis, and the plugin will remember your choice for a given web domain.
Starting on January 18th, Google will also require developers to detail their privacy practices on the Chrome Web Store. Like the App Store privacy labels Apple recently mandated (and that companies like WhatsApp have come out against), these will detail what data developers collect and use through their extensions. Google says it’s also limiting what developers can do with the data they collect and implementing new security measures through its Enhanced Safe Browsing feature to protect your data.
Those aren’t the only changes coming to Chrome extensions. In a separate announcement tied to the company’s 2020 Chrome Dev Summit, Google said it was coming out with an update to its Manifest V3 extension security tool. After some negative feedback from developers, particularly those who work on ad blockers, the company tweaked how the tool works. Google will start accepting Manifest V3 extensions beginning in January when Chrome 88 starts rolling out to the public. It’s too early to tell if these new policies will spell the end of the kind of plugins that try to collect as much data from you as possible, but they should still go a long way towards at least addressing that issue.