Chrome Browser Changes Are Deceitful And Threatening, Claims Privacy Watchdog

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Digital privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is telling Chrome browser users to beware of Google's plan to transition extensions to Manifest V3, which Google touts as being "more secure, performant, and privacy preserving than its predecessor." However, EFF says it's a "raw deal for users," which is putting it mildly.

In a blog post, the privacy watchdog labels Manifest V3 as "deceitful and threatening," adding that it is skeptical the upcoming change will do much for security. One of the issues EFF has with Manifest V3 is that it removes the blocking webRequest API that allows developers to handle network requests on behalf of the user.

EFF outlines in an earlier blog post other problems it has with Manifest V3 on a technical level, such as moving from Background Pages to a "less powerful context" called Background Service Workers. But in more plain language, EFF says MV3 "is outright harmful to privacy efforts."

"It will restrict the capabilities of web extensions—especially those that are designed to monitor, modify, and compute alongside the conversation your browser has with the websites you visit. Under the new specifications, extensions like these—like some privacy-protective tracker blockers—will have greatly reduced capabilities. Google’s efforts to limit that access is concerning, especially considering that Google has trackers installed on 75 percent of the top one million websites," EFF says.

In addition to privacy and security concerns, EFF disputes Google's claims that Manifest V3 will help performance much. The privacy advocate cites 2020 study that determined the extensions hindered by the move to MV3 are ones that actually improve browser performance.

"The development specifications of web browser extensions may seem in the weeds, but the broader implications should matter to all internet citizens: it’s another step towards Google defining how we get to live online. Considering that Google has been the world’s largest advertising company for years now, these new limitations are paternalistic and downright creepy," EFF says.

In other words, EFF is concerned with Google having so much control over the web experience through its dominant market share. Looking at StatCounter's data, Chrome accounts for 64 percent of all browser usage, with Safari coming in a distant second at 19.22 percent.