In maybe the most ironic public statement from a tech company ever, Google is now saying that upcoming changes to its Chrome browser won't kill ad-blocking. Instead, the changes are just designed to make sure that the extensions better respect your privacy.

Google is officially lecturing developers on...privacy

It's actually really hard to type when you're laughing this hard. Because, you know, Google has always been a great bastion of protecting users' privacy.

Late last month, Google confirmed that it was ending the ability for developers who make extensions for Chrome to access the API used to block ads before they are ever delivered to your browser. This has been the most effective way to navigate the Web without the endless stream of ads that seem to follow you from site to site.

As a result, both developers and users expressed outrage that the company--which makes billions operating the world's largest advertising platform--was making it harder to block those ads. As a result, Google wants to clarify that it's not expressly forbidding ad-blocking extensions, just changing the way they work.

Here's what's changing.

Here's the least tech-y way of explaining what this means. Most ad blocking extensions work using API technology that basically intercepts and modifies requests you make when you navigate to different websites. When the webpage is sent to your browser, it first is essentially filtered through the extension, and if it's an ad-blocker, it removes those parts of the page before they ever make it to the browser. You, and the browser, never see them.

Google is removing this API in favor of one that instead filters out traffic based on rules defined by the extension. The browser, however, does the heavy lifting, and still receives all of the unfiltered information. It will simply modify what is shown to the user based on the rules defined by the extension.

So, Chrome will now still be able to see all of the traffic, including ads and tracking information, but the extensions won't. 

Google says it's about privacy.

Google says this is to protect you from malicious developers who might abuse the ability of extensions to see private information. Since the extensions sit between the browser and the internet, any information you send or receive could potentially be vulnerable, like photos you might be uploading to Facebook, for example.

It seems like it might just be easier to do a little more due diligence on the extensions it allows into its Chrome store. The company says it already blocks as many as 1,800 nefarious extensions each month, but implementing a more rigorous approval system would likely be expensive.

Isn't it ironic.

There are few incentives to Google to make it easier, except for the fact Chrome users want them. Then again, Chrome users aren't really Google's customers. The advertisers sending all of those ads are the company's customers, which presents the most ironic part of this whole thing.

Google depends on its highly lucrative advertising platform to make money. That platform depends on an ever-growing stream of data about its users so that it can better serve the most relevant ads. 

So Google is claiming to be protecting its users' private information from third-party developers, but by making it harder to develop effective ad-blocking and anti-tracking extensions, it's actually guaranteeing that it will be easier for the company to monetize its users. 

Published on: Jun 13, 2019
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