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Chrome Extensions Policy Hits Deceptive Installation Tactics

Google this week announced a new policy that aims at eliminating the use of deceptive installation tactics among Chrome browser extensions. 

Google this week announced a new policy that aims at eliminating the use of deceptive installation tactics among Chrome browser extensions. 

The new rules build on the changes the Internet search giant announced in October, and are designed to ensure that Chrome extensions are trustworthy by default. 

The new policy, Google says, stems from the fact that users’ trust in extensions is greatly influenced by the path to downloading an extension. All it takes is one bad experience to affect users’ interest in these applications, the search company claims. 

“Setting the right expectations for what an extension does, from the start, helps create a healthy and thriving ecosystem of extensions, developers, and passionate users,” the company says. 

Last year, the Internet giant deprecated inline installations and also decided to request all extension installs to go through the Chrome Web Store, which helped reduce user complaints about unwanted extensions by 18%. 

Due to the fact that users continue to complain about deceptive extension install flows, the company has now decided to prohibit extensions that benefit from deceptive install tactics. 

Thus, the new policy reads: “Extensions must be marketed responsibly. Extensions that use or benefit from deceptive installation tactics will be removed from the Chrome Web Store.”

Among the deceptive installation tactics, the search company mentions “unclear or inconspicuous disclosures on marketing collateral preceding the Chrome Web Store item listing,” as well as “misleading interactive elements as part of your distribution flow,” which includes misleading call-to-action buttons or forms meant to trick the user into unknowingly installing the extension. 

Extensions that adjust the Chrome Web Store item listing window to withhold or hide extension metadata from the user are also considered as using deceptive installation tactics. 

Google asks all developers to audit all of their install traffic to ensure it is compliant with the new policy. Extension developers have until July 1, 2019 to make any necessary changes. An FAQ on the new policy has been published in the Chrome Developer Center.

Additionally, the Internet giant announced new policies meant to protect users as part of Google’s Project Strobe

Specifically, extensions will have to request the narrowest permissions needed to implement their features, and extension authors will have to post privacy policies and handle user data securely. Specifically, even extensions that handle user-provided content and personal communications need to adhere to this policy. 

The updated policy also limits the types of apps that have broad access to content or data via Drive APIs. According to Google, apps should implement a per-file user consent model, so that users could better determine what files an app is allowed to access.

Related: Google Tightens Rules for Chrome Extensions

Related: Chrome, Firefox Get Windows Defender Application Guard Extensions

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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