Google’s Plans for Chrome Extensions ‘Won’t Really Help Security’, Argues EFF

Is Google making the wrong response to the DataSpii report on a “catastrophic data leak”? The EFF writes:
In response to questions about DataSpii from Ars Technica, Google officials pointed out that they have “announced technical changes to how extensions work that will mitigate or prevent this behavior.” Here, Google is referring to its controversial set of proposed changes to curtail extension capabilities, known as Manifest V3.

As both security experts and the developers of extensions that will be greatly harmed by Manifest V3, we’re here to tell you: Google’s statement just isn’t true. Manifest V3 is a blunt instrument that will do little to improve security while severely limiting future innovation… The only part of Manifest V3 that goes directly to the heart of stopping DataSpii-like abuses is banning remotely hosted code. You can’t ensure extensions are what they appear to be if you give them the ability to download new instructions after they’re installed.

But you don’t need the rest of Google’s proposed API changes to stop this narrow form of bad extension behavior. What Manifest V3 does do is stifle innovation…

The EFF makes the following arguments Google’s proposal:
Manifest V3 will still allow extensions to observe the same data as before, including what URLs users visit and the contents of pages users visitManifest V3 won’t change anything about how “content scripts” work…another way to extract user browsing data.Chrome will still allow users to give extensions permission to run on all sites.
In response Google argued to Forbes that the EFF “fails to account for the proposed changes to how permissions work. It is the combination of these two changes, along with others included in the proposal, that would have prevented or significantly mitigated incidents such as this one.”

But the EFF’s technology projects director also gave Forbes their response. “We agree that Google isn’t killing ad-blockers. But they are killing a wide range of security and privacy enhancing extensions, and so far they haven’t justified why that’s necessary.”

And in the same article, security researcher Sean Wright added that Google’s proposed change “appears to do little to prevent rogue extensions from obtaining information from loaded sites, which is certainly a privacy issue and it looks as if the V3 changes don’t help.”

The EFF suggests Google just do a better job of reviewing extensions.

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