Google Pulls Two Chrome Extensions for Bombarding Users with Invasive Ads

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News Posted: Mon, Jan 20 2014 3:03 PM

If there's one thing Google hates a lot, it's "bad" advertising. We're not talking about "bad" from the angle of being poor in quality or annoying (like Geico's latest TV commercials...), but rather ads designed to mislead, scam, or encourage an accidental click. While Google itself might still earn some serious dough off of these bad ads, it doesn't want to gain a reputation for not protecting its users.

Yesterday, we talked about the latest steps the company's taken to crack down on bad ads, and overall, its stats are impressive. Clearing out 350 million bad ads in a single year is no small feat, and year-over-year, Google's managed to dramatically reduce the number of advertisers it's had to ban for taking advantage of the system.

It looks like one "extension" of this ad-fighting involves Google's Chrome Web browser. The company recently pulled two extensions from the app store that turned rogue and began serving up invasive advertising. The biggest issue here is that the extensions gained this ability over time, or in this particular case, after they were sold to a third-party.

"Add to Feedly" and "Tweet This Page" (both unofficial extensions) were the extensions pulled, and at least on the Add to Feedly side, the extension was sold to a third-party for "four figures" - not bad for one hour's work, the developer states. Given what the extension has become, however, its developer has come to regret the decision to sell.

In December, we learned that Google would be adjusting its developer policies to rid toolbars from its Chrome store, with the company preferring to keep each and every extension to a single focus, rather than to act as a Jack-of-all-trades. While that should help things out next summer, these particular malicious extensions were not likely removed because of those policy updates; instead, it was entirely because they abused users with invasive ads.

While problematic extensions will have to be tackled by Google one at a time, it's good to see that the company is serious about keeping the Chrome store as clean as possible of malicious intent. However, I am sure there's some room for improvement. Recently, I had discovered a mysterious extension installed in Chrome, one I never heard of before. After doing some searching, I discovered that an extension I used to use (but still had installed) at some point updated and renamed itself - and I was oblivious to it. Not only that, the entire focus of the app changed! We'd hope that Google would prevent this sort of thing flying under users' radars as well.

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lipe123 replied on Mon, Jan 20 2014 4:38 PM

And yet things like the ask toolbar/extension and the conduit search junk is still on every single computer I get to fix.

These things actively add extra pieces to websites with ads and all kinds of extra "download now" buttons that serve only to confuse/trick people. It should be downright illegal, just like the download pages on many many websites where there is anywhere from 3-10 "download" buttons that only serve to infect systems with malware.

These search hijackers is the first part of a slippery slope until eventually the user lands on the lockout virus informing them they downloaded kiddy porn and need to pay a $200 fine to use their computer.

I really wish these things could be totally wiped from the Internet and their owners slapped with enormous fines.

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I would be very happy if Google would stop sending targeted ads to my Gmail account.  

 SPAM-posters beware! ®

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