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Thursday, 13 June 2019 11:26

Google's Chrome ad-blocking changes all for users' sake. Pinky promise

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Google's Chrome ad-blocking changes all for users' sake. Pinky promise Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

Google has outlined the changes it proposes to make to the Chrome browser in order to reduce the ad-blocking potential of extensions and, as I suspected, it's all done for the sake of users.

On the last day of the merry month of May, iTWire reported that Chrome would remove most of its ad-blocking ability for all but business users, something which Google did not deny at the time.

But it turns out that it is all being done for the benefit of users. Certainly not to ensure that more ads creep through so that Google can make a little more moolah. Perish the thought! After all, a company that made US$4.7 billion in 2018 by monetising other people's content and not investing a cent does have to glance at its bank balance in concern occasionally. The only person who would be concerned would be Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame as he would be wondering how to rewrite his blockbuster song Money for nothing to include what Google achieved.

Whenever Google posts something on its blog, there is plenty of scope for a giggle. Or more, if it comes from the chief executive Pichai Sundararajan, westernised name Sundar Pichai, as I pointed out here. The chances of this are improved greatly when the blog post has an Orwellian title like "Improving Security and Privacy for Extensions Users."

The latest post comes from someone named Devlin Cronin, said to be a member of the Chrome Extensions team. The uniform aspect about these pronouncements from Google is that they _always_ come without a human face.

If it were an announcement made in any country with the press corps present, there would be all those ignorant questions to deal with from uneducated reporters. No, Google wants to give people just the facts – or, rather, its version of those facts. Something like what the White House's Kellyanne Conway once proposed – alternative facts (see video below).

So Cronin tells us that the changes are being made to improve the security, privacy and performance of extensions for the Chrome browser. Sorry, I can't give you names of extensions, or a screenshot because I stopped using Chrome a long time ago. People like me are beyond redemption – we just don't know what's good for us. Hell, I even gave up on Gmail. An apostate, indeed.

But back to Cronin. "These changes include increased user options to control extension permissions, changes to the review process and readability requirements, and requiring two-step verification for developers," he writes.

In the past, you just installed an extension and it did its job. But now Google wants to change the nature of its job. Not, you must understand, to benefit Google in any way. Oh no, how could that thought even creep into one's head?

The last time this topic came up, the following quote from Google's Simeon Vincent was used: "Chrome is deprecating the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API in Manifest V3, not the entire webRequest API (though blocking will still be available to enterprise deployments)."

Perhaps Vincent gave too much away by that statement. Hence the induction of Cronin, who tells us, presumably in tones that North Korean news anchors would envy: "In addition, we’ve helped curb abuse through restricting inline installation on websites, preventing the use of deceptive installation practices, and limiting the data collected by extensions.

"We’ve also made changes to the teams themselves — over the last year, we’ve increased the size of the engineering teams that work on extension abuse by over 300% and the number of reviewers by over 400%." Percentages have no meaning unless one knows the base numbers – but perish that thought too. How could anyone doubt Google's sincerity?

I would love to detail more from this statement, which was presumably okayed by Google's glorious leaders, but somehow I'm feeling the need to throw up and have to break it off here.

But the announcement in its entirety is all here, so please read it. And remember, any hint of malice in this announcement is all due to your own, third-rate blinkered vision.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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