Browsers are the frontend to explore the internet for longtime. Though mobile apps taken a lead in that front, still browsers are unavoidable when using desktop computers. Most browsers like Chrome offers basic features to explore websites and find the details you need. However, you need to install extensions in order to get additional functions. If you are the one can’t live without browser extensions then read on further why you shouldn’t use them.
Functions of Browser Extensions
There are no limits for the extended function an extension can add to the browser. Here are some typical examples:
- Blocking advertisements on the websites
- Customize the new tab page and the appearance of the browser
- Inserting custom features like emoji, stylish fonts, etc.
- Simplifying your workflow like attending classroom sessions, taking screenshots, etc.
- Entertainment and shopping extensions that target ecommerce users.
The list will go on and even applications like Microsoft Office has a browser extension for Edge to edit documents online.
Why You Should Not Use Browser Extensions?
You can use extensions in Chrome and Edge from Chrome Web Store. Firefox, Safari and Edge browsers has their own store for finding and installing extensions. However, many users do not pay attention to what details the extension collects during the installation. Overlooking and clicking on “Yes” or “Accept” to all questions will not only create problems to your browser but also affect your entire computer.
1. Tracking All Browsing Activities
Whenever you install an extension, it is necessary to confirm the access details. Most of the browser extensions like ad blockers need a complete access in order to work properly. This essentially means the extension with complete access can view all your browsing activities. It includes the login details when you use your banking account. Though popular extensions do not record these details, it is not necessarily the case with all extensions.
For example in Chrome, you can click on the extension icon and check the access permission. As you see in the below example of Adblock Plus, the extension has a full access to see and modify the information on the site.
You can get more details by clicking on the three dots button against the extension to see the level of permission it has on your browser.
Therefore, it is up to your risk to use this type of extensions that need full access to websites you visit on the browser.
2. Collection of Usage and Personal Details
Some extensions by default collect the usage data for improvement purposes. In general, they will sell the collected information to third-parties for analysis. Therefore, check your extension’s privacy and data collection policy to understand what they will do with the collected information. The best option is not to use extensions that do not have privacy details or disable the usage sharing option.
On Chrome Web Store, you can see the privacy declaration from developer under “Privacy Practices” tab. Many responsible developers declare the data collection and usage policy.
However, there are developers who never mention about the data collection.
Make sure to read and understand the privacy practices details of an extension, if at all you want to install it on your browser.
3. Slow Down Your Browser
If you feel the browser loads webpages very slowly, the first thing you should do is to disable all installed extensions. Opening your browser in incognito mode also disable all extensions and access websites in safer mode. Being said that, certain extensions like ad blockers can still work in incognito mode. Therefore, it is better to avoid extensions to get small feature while losing the speed.
4. Conflicting with Browser Updates
Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers will automatically update to their latest stable version without your knowledge. Unfortunately, you have no option to disable this auto update as this is considered as a security feature. Now that developers of extensions have no obligation to keep up their products with the latest browser version. So, using outdated extensions may cause minor glitches or affect the entire security of your browser.
5. Act Like an Adware or Malware
Purchasing a Windows laptop is always a pain in certain countries like China. The dealers will install custom browsers like 360 to add browser extensions in the OEM product and sell it as a package. You have no option to disable these extensions as they will be linked to computer’s management panel. Trying to delete the browser or extension will throw you fake warning messages like your computer is at risk. These hidden extensions will show ugly pop-up ads and track all your activities silently. The only option in such a case is to clean reinstall your Windows and get rid of the browser and extensions.
How to Deal with Extensions and Safe Browsing?
Many users install extensions for some simple purposes like ad blocking or for quick access. When trying to get minor features, you should not lose the focus on security in total. On other hand, some users can’t live without extensions as they need to access the feature frequently. There are two ways to deal with the situation:
- Completely delete all extensions and use the latest browser version. This will help you to safely browse the web without any tracking or sharing by browser extensions.
- Alternatively, you can use multiple browsers on your computer. Windows computers come with Edge and Apple supplies Safari as the default browser. You can use these browsers without any extensions for personal logins and financial transactions. In addition, you can use Chrome or Firefox with extensions / add-ons to do your regular browsing. Though Chrome uses the same network settings on your computer, Firefox allows you to configure different network for your browser. You can make use of this feature if you want to keep your browsing activities in two different channels.