Do You Know What’s in That Chrome Extension?
Chrome extensions—like all browser extensions—are excellent ways to enhance your internet browser’s capabilities. Developers like Google can’t include every possible feature with their browsers, but extension developers can focus on one feature and make it great. That said, extensions can be a gateway to privacy leaks and even malware. Here’s what to look out for.
For starters, remember that extensions are software. With any software, you need to take a good look at the download page before installing it onto your device. When you see an extension you’re interested in, comb through the description and the preview images: Is the description written well, or poorly with spelling and grammar mistakes? Do the images show off what the extension advertises itself to do?
Next, check the reviews: If the extension is legitimate and delivers on its promises, you should see positive ratings. However, if there are nefarious activities happening within the extension, users may complain about slow browser speeds or an increase in pop-up ads. That’s a red flag.
The most important thing to check, however, is the privacy report. Here, you’ll see what data the extension will read or take from you, which will inform whether or not you really want that extension in the first place. For example, you may think about installing an extension, but look at the privacy report to find that it records your web history, monitors your networks, logs keystrokes, records mouse clicks, and monitors the web content of sites you visit. That’s creepy, and likely not worth whatever benefits the extension offered.
As with all things digital, always double-check a piece of software before installing it on your machine.