Google has been hard at work this year improving security and privacy in its Chrome browser's extensions. And that's already included some fairly drastic changes. Now, the company has unveiled even more changes geared at improving privacy, transparency in data use, security, and more for Chrome extensions. As well as plans to add extensions to its Enhanced Safe Browsing features.
The latter feature hasn't been detailed as of this writing. Google also hasn't provided a clear timeframe for the alterations. The tool already checks for wayward Chrome extensions in real-time. And it isn't immediately clear exactly what might be added. So everybody's going to need to wait to see what new Enhanced Safe Browsing features will be added. But the remaining changes are going to make a big difference for end-users.
What does Google have planned for the privacy of its Chrome Extensions?
One of the biggest changes to Chrome Extensions slated for release directly impacts how those access data via permissions once installed. Namely, they'll no longer have direct access to all sites. Users will need to utilize the puzzle-piece-shaped icon at the top-right-hand side of the UI to grant permissions. That will open up extension management tools. Then they'll need to grant permission for sites on a site-by-site basis.
Once an extension has been granted permission for a website, Chrome will save that to preferences. So it only needs to be done once per site. And users can also set extensions to have access to all sites from there. But extensions will no longer have access to every website by default. Meaning that processes for adjusting permissions and access will no longer be so complicated.
Finally, the company will also ensure every extension will publicly display its “privacy practices” to users in a way that's more transparent. The developers will need to use "clear visuals and simple language" for their explanation and that will be shown to users before the extensions are downloaded and installed. That's in addition to new limitations on what developers can collect from users, to begin with.
When is all of this coming?
All of these changes are coming to Chrome in 2021. But some will be arriving sooner than others. Changes to how developers show collection will go into effect via new policies on January 18. The other changes are slated to arrive later in 2021.