December 19, 2014

Chrome Cracks Down on Extensions for Adding Unwanted Adware

add to feedly

Google has removed “Add to Feedly” and one other Chrome extension from its app store for improperly loading ads to users’ computers. A new version of “Add to Feedly” has since been restored to the Google Chrome Web Store. A single user review claims it now works without serving unwanted adware.

Google took action against “Add to Feedly” and another app “Add to Twitter,” after recent complaints by users, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Personal technology columnist Amit Agarwal wrote on his website that he created “Add to Feedly,” a few lines of code, so users could add RSS from websites easily:

“When Google decided to pull the plug on Google Reader, I quickly made the switch to Feedly since it was (and still is) the best alternative to Google’s RSS Reader. The one important piece that Feedly did not offer was a Chrome extension that would let users subscribe to RSS feeds on any web page with a click.”

Later, Amit says he was approached by a potential buyer and agreed to sell the app, but now regrets that decision:

“One morning I got an email from someone ( I tried Googling her name but it returned no results ) asking me if I would be interested in selling the Feedly Chrome extension. It was a 4-figure offer for something that had taken an hour to create and I agreed to the deal. I had no clue about the buyer and was also curious to know why would anyone pay this kind of money for such a simple Chrome extension.”

The result? The new owners apparently added code which turns the links in every page a user visits into spammy affiliate links.

We’ve had our own experiences with browser extensions that carry unwanted adware here at Small Business Trends. CEO and Publisher Anita Campbell explains:

“The problem with unwanted adware and Google Chrome extensions has been an issue for a while now, but recently adware developers have gotten more aggressive. They have started buying up browser extensions from original developers, just so they can fill them with adware. In December we got hit with the Conduit extension that added unwanted adware via my browser on various computers, for every site I visited. I first discovered it when I went to Small Business Trends and noticed annoying ads I had never seen before. I knew we hadn’t placed them there. Turns out, they weren’t in our own site, but were in my browser and it just ‘seemed’ like they were in my own website. I had to take several steps to delete the unwanted extension, clear cookies and history, and reboot.

Some have called these extensions viruses, but they are not really a virus. I would describe them as aggressive and unwanted adware.  So if you suddenly start seeing lots of annoying ads, take a close look at the extensions to your browser. It’s not just Chrome that’s affected, but some of these adware injections also affect Firefox.”

Google recently rewrote its guidelines to prohibit developers from using such tactics when adding extensions to the browser.

Image: Google

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Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

8 Reactions

  1. Hmm. Wow. That’s a new one. If those who tagged the adware onto the extension weren’t so crafty, they’d have my admiration.

    Doesn’t Google test an extension before it’s accepted into the fold?

    • I guess this will somehow let them do that. I guess they have not imagined that this will happen. I always hated adware. It makes me see the same ads over and over again in any website I go to.

      • I can’t fathom how, with Google’s brainpower, it couldn’t see such a thing happening. If they have the ability to build search engines, implement and update clever algorithms into their search engines, build an email platform, create an advertising system, then I don’t see how they didn’t have the sense to see an eventuality such as adware re: extensions.

        I just think they didn’t see it as a priority. They were willing to take a risk until it happened. I could be totally wrong though. It’s just that I don’t see Google not having imagined it.

  2. It sure looks like Google missed this one. Too bad because I hate adwares. But at least Google is now aware that developers can and may do this kind of tactic in the future. And because they’re already aware, they can come up with solutions to how this can be prevented.

    • Yep, I guess that’s a positive way to look at it; nothing can be done about what’s already happened but they can move forward and learn from it, and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

  3. I can’t seem to contact google to let them know, but Conduit is in their sheets. A Conduit application runs on my chrome, but only after I log in to Chrome.

    I’ve done all the cleaning in the world, the Conduit bug is in my account with google.

    I recommend an exodus from google. Delete your account, at least, and start fresh with a new account.

    • Hi Colin. I can imagine that must have been pretty frustrating for you. Is there a Google forum for Chrome? If so, maybe you could try posting a question there about your issue.

      Good luck.

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