Authors: Giulia Melotti Garibaldi
Affiliation: Cyber Security Consultant Master’s degree in Law, University of Milano- Bicocca, Italy


Keywords: cyber; security; browser extensions; protection; privacy.
ABSTRACT. Browser extensions are popular additions to web browsers meant to enhance the online user experience by providing customizable options to meet the individual needs of users. In the wide variety of extensions available on the market, spanning from ad blockers to password managers, some of these software modules have proven to be a double-edged sword. As a matter of fact, in the past few years we have witnessed an alarming increase of malicious extensions available for download, targeting unaware victims relying on their apparent functional nature while hiding a world of illicit data thefts and sharing practices to the consumers’ detriment. In order to examine whether the trade-off of privacy for functionality might still be an ongoing issue, this article follows two different approaches where theory and practice go hand in hand. The first one consists of a technical state-of-the-art analysis of different browser extensions available for download on the Chrome Web Store, while the second comprises a study of the questionable risks posed by those technologies from a privacy perspective. With regards to the latter, the author acknowledges the worldwide reach of browser extensions, while understanding the existence of a vast regulatory landscape around the globe. For the purpose of this paper, the analysis solely focuses on the European privacy framework, consisting of the General Data Protection Regulation (hereafter referred to as the GDPR) and the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (the ePrivacy Directive). The conclusion drawn is that, despite all the efforts to counteract malicious browser extensions, some of them are still perpetrating harm and breaching privacy principles in a way which might not seem evident to users.


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