When browser extensions are “spies” selling your browsing data to the highest bidder
Internet is not free, and social networks daily visits either, since you pay with your personal data. This is a message that takes several years trying to instill in society. Many people are aware of it, and even justice is starting to act where services like Facebook or WhatsApp, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Something as seemingly innocent as an extension for your browser also may be getting and selling your personal data. Not only extensions of low quality, but, as has uncovered a German environment, also other with such good rating as the popular WOT: Web of Trust. So do not be afraid to how Facebook can abuse their cookies, because surely already have given your details to whom we least expect.
Shall we go down the guard with extensions?
Gradually we are becoming aware that social networks charge us with our privacy. We continue to use the same, but the concern of users means that in some cases the authorities decide to intervene, which in turn gives more voice to the subject and makes more people want to report what happens.
If you think, the risk is minimal because extensions do not access as much data we return to WOT. German journalists bought them data including ten million web pages. The problem is that the data were not entirely expunged, and they had URLs revealing usernames, emails or names. Also email addresses PayPal accounts or Skype user names.
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And it is that the pages you visit say more about you than you think. For example, in this specific case information they could hear police investigations or sexual preferences of a judge. They also obtained the names of some online seeking drugs or prostitutes, and even financial information of some companies.
In fact, a year ago a study revealed that 10% of the more than 40,000 extensions that were analyzed over what they said. Some added advertising pages visited, other recorded what we write or even affiliate codes inserted in certain online stores to profit from our purchases.
What can we do?
It is true that most need these data extensions to run, but why we should not let our guard down or stop taking precautions. The first should always be to use the official extensions of each service, and do not believe us it is a bracketing (by Google). Always let us look at the author.
This does not mean that we will not trust us small developers or new alternative applications, but if we do yes we should look at the number of users, the views of each and, if available, the help section for detect potential problems. Ultimately, we are our first line of defense, and we must know what we installed.
As we have said, it is also important to check the type of permissions that apply to us and think what could use. To give a couple of examples, read or modify all of the Web sites we visit could serve to add advertising, while doing the same with history would allow them to collect and sell our surfing habits.