Browser extensions can improve your browsing experience, block intrusive ads, or bring new features to your daily Internet use. There are thousands of browser extensions and extension developers out there, so it’s wise to be careful with the extensions you use.
By installing an extension, you give it permission to use certain data, so itâ€™s best to learn how to double-check and install only secure browser extensions to make sure they are not using your information in a malicious manner.
Verify Safe Browser Extensions before installing
Fortunately, checking the safety of a browser extension can be easier than installing a program on your computer. This is because each browser extension will list all the permissions it asks for before installing.
Permissions can be anything from viewing your search history, accessing your webcam, reading your data on certain websites, or modifying the data you enter, copy, or paste.
If the browser extension does not have permissions, it cannot complete the task. Thus, the extension will not be able to access your webcam, for example, if the permission to access it is not specified on the installation page.
When you are about to install a browser extension, the first thing you need to do is check these permissions. They can tell a lot about what a browser extension can do once it is installed. Take Social Blade, for example.
Social Blade is a tool that can tell you growth statistics for your accounts on Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms. It’s great for tracking your own growth, your competitors, or anyone interested in their favorite authors.
When you add the Social Blade Chrome extension to your browser, it asks for permissions to read and modify data on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and Instagram. Considering what the extension does, it sounds like a safe browser extension. When you install it, it will display Socialblade statistics for each website as you browse it. So it’s clear why these permissions are needed.
Maybe not, but then again, even if you download it, it will only be able to access the permissions specified when installing the extension.
This permission system is pretty much the same for Chrome and Firefox. You need to be extra careful in Microsoft Edge. Permissions are granted, but they go through the Microsoft Store first, which means you’ll have to scroll down to read the permissions first. When you click Install, no warning appears.
What are the permissions for the Safe Browser extension and which are not?
When you give permissions to a browser extension, it can be a little confusing what this actually means. To help you, we have provided a more detailed explanation so that you can be more informed when installing new browser extensions. These recommendations are based on information provided by Google
Permissions for high risk browser extensions
You should immediately be suspicious of any extensions that require access to all data on your computer and the websites you visit. You should be concerned if an extension requires access to any data on your computer, not just data in the browser itself. This is a sign that this is an unsafe browser extension.
Be extremely careful when downloading these apps, even from trusted sources.
Permissions for Medium Risk Browser Extensions
You should be moderately suspicious of any extensions that require data on the websites you visit. It’s rare for an extension to ever need to collect data about every website you visit. It is more likely that an extension may need access to read, query, or modify data on a specific list of websites, and you can allow that permission as you see fit.
For example, Socialblade requires access to data on certain social media websites for which it can provide detailed statistics. This access is required for a single extension function to work.
Understand the functionality of the extension and ask yourself if this functionality meets the permission requests. You should never give an extension access to a website like PayPal or your bank’s website.
Low Risk Browser Extension Permissions
Any of the following permissions are considered low risk. You are unlikely to fall victim to scams or malicious behavior with these permission requests. However, it’s up to you if you want to transfer your data using these permissions.
- Your saved bookmarks
- Your browsing history
- Your tabs and browser actions
- Your physical location
- Any copies and pasted data
- List of installed applications, extensions and themes
The permission system used for browser extensions makes it easy to understand what data the extension is accessing. That being said, you must be careful and understand what happens every time you grant permissions.
I hope this guide helped explain which permissions are safe and how to find only safe browser extensions from trusted developers.