The curious case of ClearURLs' removal from the Google Chrome Webstore

ClearURLs is an anti-tracking web extension that I have been using it for a long time, and reviewed it at the blog nearly 2 years ago. It is one of many privacy related add-ons that I use along with UBlock Origin, Multi-Account Containers, to name a few.

ClearURLs

I came across a thread on reddit's Firefox sub yesterday, where I learned that ClearURLs has been removed from the Google Chrome Webstore.

As a long time user, I was naturally curious, and also slightly alarmed. Was there a reason for me to be worried? That's when I headed to the add-on's official GitHub page, where a user had raised an issue regarding the extension's absence.

For those unaware, here's a gist of what the add-on does. Its primary feature removes tracking elements from URLs. This is usually the extra part of a link that is completely unnecessary for you to visit and view the page that is being linked to. You may have seen really long URLs that takes you from one website to another, which is quite common when referral links are used. A website that wants to earn some commission for a product that it is affiliated with, adds a trackable link, for which it is paid a compensation fee. That is not exactly our problem, the issue is the landing page knows where you came from, which in layman's terms boils down to online tracking. This is a violation of your privacy, and it also happens when you click on ads.

Oh, and I should point out that ClearURLs is one of the extensions recommended by Mozilla. So, a privacy-focused organization loves it, while a company that relies heavily on online advertisements for its revenue removes it. Gee, I wonder who I should trust!

Here's the link to the Webstore page in question. I digress.

Let's see why the extension was removed from the Webstore. The response from the developer, Kevin Roebert, sheds some light on the issue. He has posted a screenshot of the message he received from Google, it's in German.

The curious case of ClearURLs' removal from the Google Chrome Webstore

He states that the reviewer who removed the extension claimed that the description of the add-on is too detailed, and that is a violation of the Chrome Web Store's policies. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. Well this does sort of explains why we see the extensive change-logs we see every so often with the "Bugs fixed" or "New features were added." They don't want to tell us what they did, because we may not like it.

ClearURLs extension removed from Chrome webstore

Apparently, ClearURLs' description was so good that it could confuse the user. That is pure gold, isn't it? Among other claims the removal notice states that the extension is misleading because it has an export/import button (used for the settings), a built-in option for logging and debugging.

The translated text (attached on GitHub) from the reviewer tells that the developer has not provided descriptions of what the buttons in the add-on's interface do. Is that a reason to ban an extension?

ClearURLs removal translation

The ClipBoardWrite permission mentioned in the above image has been deemed unnecessary and removed in the latest version of the add-on. According to a comment from Roebert, the permission wasn't being used at all, so that doesn't seem like a valid reason to remove the add-on either. The third violation makes no sense, how is ClearURLs providing misleading information about itself?

The developer has commented that the description was written based on suggestions made by Mozilla's press department, specifically so users can understand how the add-on works. You can go to the Firefox AMO where the extension still exists and read the description there (or check the screenshots below). The wording is quite extensive.

ClearURLs Description

My guess is someone didn't like the penultimate line in the above image.

ClearURLs Description 2

ClearURLs' developer says that the add-on's Webstore description had been used for over a year. So, why did Google remove it now and not earlier? Roebert's theory is that it is because the add-on has many users now and that it is hurting somebody's business. Here's an article that explains what data Google collects from you using Chrome.

Oh, and if you aren't aware of it, Google has enabled Manifest V3 in the beta version of Chrome. This controversial move could possibly be the end of ad-blockers for the browser. It may not be directly related to this article, but I just wanted to point out the general direction in which we are heading in terms of privacy.

There is a discussion on Hacker News that says ClearURLs could be used for potentially dangerous. Apparently, and I use this word because I'm not a developer, the extension allows arbitrary code execution aka targeted attacks if a filter list contained malicious stuff. The developer has responded to the issue in a comment on GitHub.

Comments on the GitHub issue suggest visiting the project's releases page, get the CRX file and drop it onto your browser's interface. This didn't work for many users (including me), the developer says that's because it is not signed by Google.

If you want a ClearURLs alternative, you want to take a look at NeatURL. You can also install it in Chrome directly from the GitHub page.

Summary
The curious case of ClearURLs' removal from the Google Chrome Webstore
Article Name
The curious case of ClearURLs' removal from the Google Chrome Webstore
Description
The ClearURLs extension has been removed from the Google Chrome Webstore. It was blocked for having a description that was too detailed.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. A-guy said on March 25, 2021 at 5:05 pm
    Reply

    Or via Ublock origin and its new function ($removeparam) add this filter:
    https://filterlists.com/lists/actually-legitimate-url-shortener-tool

    1. assurbani said on March 26, 2021 at 2:12 pm
      Reply
    2. namegame said on March 26, 2021 at 2:13 pm
      Reply

      obsolete list?

  2. Klaas Vaak said on March 25, 2021 at 5:14 pm
    Reply

    I like the way you wrote the article, Ashwin !

    1. owl said on March 27, 2021 at 1:07 am
      Reply

      I agree with @Klaas Vaak
      I’m a regular user of this extension, but I’m using Firefox ESR regularly, so I didn’t know about this issue. This is very important information and I respect gHacks Tech News for news flash about it.

  3. Corky said on March 25, 2021 at 5:16 pm
    Reply

    Or just stop using a web browser that’s developed by a company that makes its money from advertising.

  4. Bobby Phoenix said on March 25, 2021 at 6:08 pm
    Reply

    Doesn’t Chrome already do this anyway?

    1. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 10:03 pm
      Reply

      In a word, “no”.

  5. VioletMoon said on March 25, 2021 at 7:03 pm
    Reply

    Another conspiracy theory? As soon as I saw the title for the article, a flag of doubt raised itself in my mind.

    Yes, I use ClearURLs; yes, I uninstalled it on FF and Chrome. I went about hunting for the Chrome version (as a general rule, Chrome will identify and disable a “dangerous” add-on).

    Click, click. Well, there’s the extension page along with a March 25 update notice. Click–installed fine.

    No problems here. Kevin Robert may have done something to the description; not a problem here. And there really aren’t that many users documented on the CWS–only 40,000+.

    Oh, I tested your link as well. Goes straight to the add-on.

    Reddit–great source for misinformation.

    The tone of the article along with cursory documentation concerning the add-on is risible at best. It sounds like a young reporter who thinks he’s found the BIG story of the year.

    1. Klaas Vaak said on March 25, 2021 at 7:29 pm
      Reply

      @VioletMoon: this article is a follow on from yesterday about the exact same topic, yet yesterday you had no trouble with it, or in any case you did not comment.

      No, the tone is not like that of a young reporter, and YES, it IS big because the logic from Google’s side is pathetic at best. So yes, there is some sort of conspiracy going on.

      The fact that you encountered no problem today does not mean there wasn’t one yesterday. It is you who behaves like a rooky reporter who has stumbled upon something big, when it is not.

      1. VioletMoon said on March 26, 2021 at 12:54 am
        Reply

        Hmmm . . . sounds more like a reporter who jumped on something that was BIG at the time, but was easily vanquished within a day. Note: gHacks is one of my go-to-first sites each morning, and the article wasn’t present yesterday. It didn’t appear until today.

        If the logic behind Google’s choice to remove an add-on is “pathetic,” why was it so easy for Kevin Robert to rectify the problem with a few lines of verbosity that could remain on his own site. It seriously was far too much for a simple, but concise description for the Google Store.

        Occam’s Razor = the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

        I love the supposition Ashwin posits apparently before the add-on logically reappears: “So, a privacy-focused organization loves it [FF], while a company that relies heavily on online advertisements for its revenue removes it. Gee, I wonder who I should trust!”

        Firefox is totally dependent on Google: “Mozilla’s latest annual report states that “the majority of Mozilla Corporation revenue is generated from global browser search partnerships, including the deal negotiated with Google in 2017.”

        https://tinyurl.com/a4x6v8ab

        Fortunately, for FF, “The new search deal will ensure Google remains the default search engine provider inside the Firefox browser until 2023 at an estimated price tag of around $400 million to $450 million per year.”

        https://tinyurl.com/3zxhfff2

        “Mozilla’s long-term plan is to build its own revenue streams from subscription-based services and reduce its dependence on the Google search deal, which has historically accounted for between 75% and 95% of the organization’s entire yearly budget.” You seriously trust FF with that much revenue coming from Google?

        If Mozilla is truly “a privacy-focused organization that loves it [ClearURLs], why would the company even think of using Google search as the default search engine?

        I admire Google for flagging an add-on that can’t possibly affect advertising revenue because its user base is almost nil. I also appreciate Google’s interference with several add-ons I’ve used that have eventually been flagged as “malware” and automatically disabled.

        Firefox doesn’t appear to care about possible malware add-ons other than by stating “Use this add-on knowing we haven’t approved it or reviewed it.”

        Security

        “Google Chrome has been named “most secure browser” at the Pwn2Own hacking event for two years straight. During both events, the browser was not hacked, while its competitors, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari, were all compromised at least once.”

        https://tinyurl.com/768fpb23

        Clearly, FF may have once erroneously been known as “a champion of internet privacy and safety,” but making deals with Google and avoiding responsibility for a more thorough vetting of extensions in its catalog, helps me understand why its market share is around 5% and its mobile market share is around .00000000001%.

        I do hope gHacks publishes the above comment. They have a way of deterring any rebuttals to comments–censorship as bad as Google flagging add-ons.

      2. owl said on March 26, 2021 at 9:47 am
        Reply

        @VioletMoon,

        Topic about “ClearURLs extension on Chrome web store” in gHacks Tech News
        The starting point of the topic:
        https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/24/vivaldi-gets-a-privacy-preserving-translation-service/#comment-4489931
        Articles from the starting point:
        https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/25/after-googles-removal-how-to-install-the-cleanurls-add-on-manually-in-chrome/
        And this article:
        https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/25/the-curious-case-of-clearurls-removal-from-the-google-chrome-webstore/

        About gHacks
        Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann.

        News | Wikipedia
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News
        News is information about “current events”.
        “Newsworthiness” is defined as a subject having sufficient relevance to the public or a special audience to warrant press attention or coverage.
        News values seem to be common across cultures. People seem to be interested in news to the extent which it has a big impact, describes conflicts, happens nearby, involves well-known people, and deviates from the norms of everyday happenings. War is a common news topic, partly because it involves unknown events that could pose personal danger.

        I can’t take VioletMoon attitude anymore, your usual “short-sighted and frivolous posting”.
        It may be “worthless news” to you, but it is “significant” to the gHacks Tech News and the gHacks community.
        Even seemingly trivial things can actually be irreversible due to conspiracy, etc. (Case: The abolition of the Weimar Constitution is a Nazi German conspiracy)
        It is important to extinguish conspiracies in the early stages, but if the fire burning up and shower of flying sparks, spreading fire, it will be difficult to control.

        I guess Google is trying to figure out “How far is an acceptable point?”.
        We are being tested by Google.

      3. owl said on March 26, 2021 at 11:13 am
        Reply

        We must learn from Britain’s Prime Minister Chamberlain and France’s Vichy administration, who thinking optimistically disregarded Adolf Hitler’s (Nazi) ambitions and caused the Holocaust and global war.

      4. VioletMoon said on March 26, 2021 at 9:55 pm
        Reply

        “I guess Google is trying to figure out “How far is an acceptable point?”
        We are being tested by Google.”

        Guess? What are they testing? Is there war? That serious?

        Rather odd that Google would renew the default search engine agreement; even more so that FF would get down on hands and knees to hope it happened.

        Without Google, FF wouldn’t exist or one would have to pay for the browser?

        Abolition of the Weimar Constitution was better for Germany: “‘Giving such an expansive liberal democracy to a people who had previously known only rigid monarchic and aristocratic rule, however, was to prove problematic. This view was expressed by historian Klaus Fischer, who considered it “doubtful whether such a democratic constitution could work in the hands of a people that was neither psychologically nor historically prepared for self-government.'”

        Much like US policy in thinking Democracy per se can be exported to countries who have only known harsh dictatorial leadership.

        An historian’s view:

        “There were flaws. The constitution had no stirring preamble that laid out a vision of a democratic Germany. The proportional voting system contributed mightily to the political fragmentation of Weimar. The electoral law that followed [the constitution] authorised representation in the Reichstag for every party with 60,000 votes. The powers granted to the president in emergency situations were too extensive. But the flaws in the constitution had less to do with the political system it established than with the fact that German society was so fragmented. A less divided society, and one with a more expansive commitment to democratic principles, could have made it work.”

        Eric D. Weitz

        Rather flattered to hear you actually read my well-constructed views: “I can’t take VioletMoon attitude anymore, your usual “short-sighted and frivolous posting.'”

      5. owl said on March 27, 2021 at 12:52 am
        Reply

        @VioletMoon,
        > Another conspiracy theory? As soon as I saw the title for the article, a flag of doubt raised itself in my mind.
        Reddit–great source for misinformation.
        As a general rule, Chrome will identify and disable a “dangerous” add-on
        The tone of the article along with cursory documentation concerning the add-on is risible at best. It sounds like a young reporter who thinks he’s found the BIG story of the year.
        > Hmmm . . . sounds more like a reporter who jumped on something that was BIG at the time, but was easily vanquished within a day. Note: gHacks is one of my go-to-first sites each morning, and the article wasn’t present yesterday. It didn’t appear until today.
        If the logic behind Google’s choice to remove an add-on is “pathetic,” why was it so easy for Kevin Robert to rectify the problem with a few lines of verbosity that could remain on his own site. It seriously was far too much for a simple, but concise description for the Google Store.
        Occam’s Razor = the simplest explanation is usually the right one.
        > Guess? What are they testing? Is there war? That serious?

        Well, from your past posts and replies, etc., I knew that you wouldn’t get the metaphors and other examples, and that your argument would go astray.
        I am not trying to “persuade you,” of course.
        My intention in replying to you was to clarify the “cause, process and background of this topic” because your comment may “mislead the viewers of this article”.
        The essence of this case (topic and article) is that the anti-tracking tool (two years ago it was uBlockOrigin, and now it’s ClearURLs.) has been removed from the “Chrome web store”.
        https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/25/the-curious-case-of-clearurls-removal-from-the-google-chrome-webstore/#comment-4490069
        As related information regarding tracking (collection of personal information):
        Microsoft Edge could soon share browsing data with Windows 10 | gHacks Tech News
        https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/23/microsoft-edge-could-soon-share-browsing-data-with-windows-10/

        We felt something strange. We wondered. Why? Should not be left unanswered, but should be clarified (being cleared).
        That’s why the “Issue” was reported on GitHub and discussions were held.
        ClearURLs/Addon Issue #102 · · GitHub | Addon Unavailable on Google Chrome
        https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon/issues/102
        If we don’t raise our voice, nothing will be solved.

        The news is not limited to Reddit; it has been detailed in Hacker News, Bleepingcomputer, The Register, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, brianlovin, Wirecutter, Algorithmia, and more.
        https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26564638
        https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/google-removes-privacy-focused-clearurls-chrome-extension/
        https://www.theregister.com/2021/03/24/popular_privacy_extension_clearurls_removed/
        https://www.techradar.com/news/popular-privacy-extension-clearurls-removed-from-chrome-web-store
        https://www.tomsguide.com/news/google-just-blocked-this-chrome-privacy-extension-heres-why
        https://brianlovin.com/hn/26564638
        https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/our-favorite-ad-blockers-and-browser-extensions-to-protect-privacy/
        https://info.algorithmia.com/algorithmic-tagging-of-hackernews-or-any-other

        I have a problem with a level of thinking like yours, where you don’t even verify the news (scrutinize the information presented), but just assume that it’s “distrust or no big deal” without being ignorant of the truth and cursing gHacks Tech News.

        In addition,
        Most of the “quotations” you make are biased part of various theories (views that are convenient for you) and are completely meaningless. Things are two sides of the same coin, and what is “front” (white) from my point of view is “back” (black) from the other side. (To use a palm analogy, my palm facing you is “palm” from your point of view and “back of my hand” from mine.)
        Without enumerating the various theories and clearly stating the evidence, it is impossible to make a correct judgment.

      6. owl said on March 27, 2021 at 1:29 am
        Reply

        > Things are two sides of the same coin, and what is “front” (white) from my point of view is “back” (black) from the other side. (To use a palm analogy, my palm facing you is “palm” from your point of view and “back of my hand” from mine.)

        Oh, again you wouldn’t understand.
        In other words, things cannot be divided into the dualistic categories of “good and evil”. Just as no two faces or fingerprints are the same, there is a diversity of values and preferences. Even if you feel “black”, others do not feel the same way. However, you are unique (singular).

      7. VioletMoon said on April 4, 2021 at 3:35 am
        Reply

        @owl

        I understand that I am unique like a fine glass of wine; however, I’m not that shallow, naive, or un-educated to use a trick like “confirmation bias” to find only those sources that support my viewpoint.

        It’s interesting: 1) Wirecutter mentions the extension from a March 11 update; the site didn’t mention anything about the extension disappearing for a time; 2) The Register headlines the issue with “Popular privacy extension . . . .” Not sure how many users are needed for “popular.” I would say around 500,000, but for some 40,000 – 50,000 suffices; 3) Google/Chrome isn’t hurting financially, so they could easily dismantle uBlock and others and never suffer a loss.

        I don’t think Firefox users understand how financially dependent Firefox is on Google for sustaining the browser. It means that Google actually, behind the scenes in ways that will never be reported, completely controls Firefox. Absolutely, 100%. We shall all see that in 2023.

        In all of these discussions, it’s somewhat odd that the extension wasn’t automatically disabled on my Chrome browser. Google has disabled two extensions that most likely were malware and had ramifications for advertising revenue to some extent.

        Do a search for “Google removes Clear URLS.”

        ZDnet, CNET, BetaNews, PCMag, PCWorld, AskVG, ArsTechnica, TechRepulic, TechSpot, HowtoGeek, Addictive Tips, etc. Those are some of my main go-to sites–no eye opening headline news stories about “Clear URLs.”

        A relatively reliable list of news sources include the following found at the link below:

        https://itsssl.com/w84Jv

        Now, Reddit is good for pumping stock ideas on /wallstreetbets–a great way to take vengeance on legit short sellers. Illegal, but good at it. Made a lot of traders wealthy in a short amount of time.

        But most traders don’t use Reddit exclusively for stock ideas.

        “If the resurrection of Jesus has dramatic implications for mankind; then, it must have dramatic implications for philosophy. It dares to answer the question that philosophers have been seeking. There are no grounds for dismissing its veracity.”

        Came from an insightful series I’ve watching–BBC stuff.

  6. Ayy said on March 25, 2021 at 8:25 pm
    Reply

    There’s nothing curious about this, cleanUrls protects users from various forms of tracking that Alphabet/Google and other tracking companies spread all over the internet, and we can’t be having that. There is no “conspiracy” going on, this is just a business protecting their interests.

    This is the exact same crap they pulled with the AdNauseum addon and if there is a single takeaway from this that sticks with you like Gorilla Glue on that moronic womans hair, its that we desperately need to break up these big tech companies because Advertisers do not care about the privacy of their users, only their bottom line. If you do anything to harm that, they will de-person you. Don’t pass Go, Don’t collect 200$, Go straight to gulag.

  7. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 9:02 pm
    Reply

    Ridiculous article about an useless extension. If not “useless”… at least it’s an inefficient bloated extension, well known for hurting browser performance, and other privacy issues.

    Not to mention the latent contradiction, no serious user would worry about tracking while using GoogleChrome.

  8. Sidney said on March 25, 2021 at 9:35 pm
    Reply

    Just an update. The extension is already back on Chrome Web Store.

  9. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 10:14 pm
    Reply

    Thanks Ashwin. Well explained.

    Initially I was worried it was removed for being unsafe (or about to be). ClearURLs continues doing its job (2.68% blocked elements).

    The description was obviously too long by one line – the line you refer to in the article.

  10. Herman Cost said on March 26, 2021 at 12:09 am
    Reply

    As Sidney says, it is back in the Chrome web store. Google just did Kevin Roebert a big favor as the various PC blogs and magazines all picked up the story and provided him and his extension with invaluable publicity. I assume that was probably what led Google to back down so quickly, although it also might have been a caution from the Alphabet attorneys who are not looking to provide additional grist for the antitrust mill.

    I assume that anything Google dislikes that much has to be good for me. So I just installed it in both Vivaldi and Firefox. I would particularly want to install it in Chrome if I used it, but because I care about the privacy of my data, I got rid of Chrome a couple of years ago.

  11. owl said on March 26, 2021 at 2:52 am
    Reply

    This Issue was settled by Google admitting to the developer that the review was wrong and re-registering it in the “Chrome web store”, and the thread was closed.
    https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon/issues/102
    Google has just responded to my objection.
    Quote: We really appreciated your changes in the extension. Upon subsequent review, we found that your extension “ClearURLs” with ID “lckanjgmijmafbedllaakclkaicjfmnk” is in compliance with our Inaccurate Description and Keyword Stuffing policies. […]
    I have been able to upload version 1.21.0, which no longer uses the clipboardWrite permission. ClearURLs are now in the review process and should be (hopefully) available in the Chrome Web Store again.
    By being able to submit new versions for review again, I was also able to upload a signed version of the addon here in the GitHub release, which can already be installed manually without error messages.
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/clearurls/lckanjgmijmafbedllaakclkaicjfmnk
    ClearURLs version: 1.21.0 updated: March 25, 2021 (Offered by: Kevin Röbert)
    40,000+ users
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/clearurls/
    55,646 users

    However, the process of this time is very similar to that of “uBlock Origin” two years ago.
    uBlockOrigin Issues #745 | GitHub
    Dev build 1.22.5rc1 “REJECTED” from Chrome Web Store
    https://github.com/uBlockOrigin/uBlock-issues/issues/745

    There has also been repeated harassment of Microsoft and Mozilla.
    For example, they may start integrating technologies for which they have exclus… | Hacker News
    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18697824
    The reason why Microsoft decided to move from Trident to Blink is because “Google kept changing their site to break other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up with the pace”, said JoshuaJB, a former member of the Edge development team.
    He also cited YouTube, an Alphabet company like Google, as a specific example, because they could not resist malicious harassment such as “hidden empty divs inserted in YouTube movies, disabling hardware acceleration in other browsers”.
    Former Mozilla exec: Google has sabotaged Firefox for years | ZDNet
    https://www.zdnet.com/article/former-mozilla-exec-google-has-sabotaged-firefox-for-years/

    Not only users of this extension, but also influential blogs and news sites have started to make a fuss, so it seems that Google, which cares about the public’s reputation, ran to extinguish the fire.
    Since it is Google’s corporate constitution and a common practice, similar cases will continue in the future.
    I guess Google has already calculated that as time goes by, “all the fuss will be forgotten and the distrust of Google will disappear. (Chrome) users are being looked down upon by Google (as if they were obedient lambs).

    1. owl said on March 26, 2021 at 3:20 am
      Reply

      As helpful information,
      Wonder about the data Google collects in Chrome and links to you? Now we know | gHacks Tech News
      https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/16/wonder-about-the-data-google-collects-in-chrome-and-links-to-you-now-we-know/

  12. allen said on March 26, 2021 at 4:25 am
    Reply

    People really expect “privacy” when they’re on someone else’s property? …people are weird.

    1. johanponken said on March 26, 2021 at 7:51 am
      Reply

      ‘People really expect “privacy” when they’re on someone else’s property? …people are weird.’
      You Sir, just won the internet.

    2. Anonymous said on March 26, 2021 at 4:13 pm
      Reply

      “If you have a blanket distrust of Google that is fine but is out-of-scope for this issue or for Mozilla. Mozilla will continue to use Google Analytics on its web properties, of which the Add-ons Discovery Pane is one.”

      https://github.com/mozilla/addons-frontend/issues/2785#issuecomment-314815234

      Conservatives unite against the Privacy Warriors attacking our property rights !

  13. Anonymous said on March 26, 2021 at 3:37 pm
    Reply

    “So, a privacy-focused organization loves it, while a company that relies heavily on online advertisements for its revenue removes it.”

    Mozilla is an anti-privacy organization. Mozilla receives billions of dollars from Google and betrays the users all the time to please Google or other surveillance capitalism partners and allies. Mozilla itself relies on advertisements for its revenue, not just indirectly from Google, but directly in the browser too. Including for browsing data monetization.

    This is another fanatically amnesic “Mozilla good” story, here just because another company did something shitty, while Mozilla has done much worse many times before. That specific abusive takedown in particular, considering the given reasons, could absolutely have happened at Mozilla.

    You talk about Google’s manifest v3 here too, ghacks wrote several times erroneously that Mozilla would not adopt it, when the only thing they said is that they had no *immediate* plan to adopt it, when the bad press about it was at its maximum, and it is obvious that only public backlash stopped them, and only temporarily.

    “This didn’t work for many users (including me), the developer says that’s because it is not signed by Google.”

    Mozilla does the same. We are not allowed to override *their* decision about what we can install on your computer. That started with “because it’s malware”, then “because it could be malware”, then after various steps the predicted slippery slope led us now to “because there are too many people thanked in the extension description”. And whoever tries to fork out that Google/Mozilla control system to turn it into a simple warning that can be overridden will be burnt alive by the ambient disinformation as making a “non secure” browser.

  14. Ron said on March 27, 2021 at 8:11 pm
    Reply

    Any user of Chrome that is surprised by this must be living in an alternate reality.

  15. owl said on March 28, 2021 at 12:27 am
    Reply

    From my knowledge and experience over the years (seen and heard from friends and acquaintances and on the web), Chrome users are indifferent to the “dignity of personal information”. They have no concerns about tracking, and prefer personalized filtering bubbles. So Google can arrogant outrageous behavior.

    It’s not surprising (they’re not interested, anyway) that Google Chrome users are silent on these topics, but, some Chrome users are stubborn enough not to doubt that Google Chrome is the best in “privacy protection and cybersecurity”, which is very strange.
    It’s also strange that @Iron Heart, who always posts on Firefox topics, and @Yuliya, a Google Chrome user, are silent.

    Like “Trump followers” and “devout believers”, they seem to believe it too much and have their eyes and ears closed.

    1. owl said on March 28, 2021 at 12:39 am
      Reply
  16. plusminus_ said on March 28, 2021 at 4:38 am
    Reply

    Following this I thought I would try Neat URL on Firefox, though it’s a little old now. It seems lighter and does precisely what I used ClearURLs for – and I can add my own rules easily!

    (Not that I had any problems with ClearURLs – it’s a great extension! – but it did more than I was using it for, and it *seemed* like my browser used more battery with it installed… is that even plausible?)

  17. Anonymous said on March 28, 2021 at 11:07 am
    Reply

    Google , many people believe that they can do no wrong no matter what they do.
    They own the video site YouTube & have been banning people months now. Yet l haven’t heard anyone say they will uninstall chrome because of this behaviour. Chrome users must support censorship then because are Google sheeples.

  18. Sebas said on March 28, 2021 at 12:11 pm
    Reply

    There was a discussion on MalwareTips that Clear URLs is too heavy on your system. It was somewhere on the browsers-add-ons
    forum.

    I installed it on my desktop in Brave and browsing is as fast as before.

    The point is that Clear URLs for quite a time was not updated before this happened, and ever since the Nano adblock debacle I have become weary about adding more and more extensions, the more so if they are not regularly updated.

    And then there was the problem with the ClipBoardWrite permission.

    So I have removed the extension again. I tend to be cautious with every extension maintained by one person and not regularly updated.

    1. owl said on March 29, 2021 at 2:37 am
      Reply

      @Sebas,
      > The point is that Clear URLs for quite a time was not updated before this happened, and ever since the Nano adblock debacle I have become weary about adding more and more extensions, the more so if they are not regularly updated.
      > And then there was the problem with the ClipBoardWrite permission.
      > So I have removed the extension again. I tend to be cautious with every extension maintained by one person and not regularly updated.

      This extension is a fully open source project developed and user support (Issues Tracker).
      Support is always “quick and sincere”.
      Updates are also active and very sincere.

      There is no reason to be inferior (untrustworthy) to a browser vendor (such as Google) just because it is an extension by a single developer. If there is any inferiority, it is due to closed projects and quality of developers.
      Best of all, we have to rely on extensions for features that are missing or unresolved in the browser vendor’s specifications (for example, tracking protection).

      Anyway, this extension “ClearURLs” has been “consistently published for development and support, and properly modified and updated” from the beginning. It can be determined that this is an “extension” worthy of recommendation.

      ClearURLs version history – 20 versions: AMO (addons.mozilla.org)
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/clearurls/versions/
      For Firefox and Chrome (Chromium): Releases 19
      https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon/releases

      Developer commit history:
      https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon/commits?author=KevinRoebert

      The original official website where the developer (KevinRoebert) provides development and support with “ClearUrls”
      ClearURLs Project ID: 6821549 | GitLab
      https://gitlab.com/KevinRoebert/ClearUrls

      Developer profile:
      https://gitlab.com/KevinRoebert
      https://github.com/KevinRoebert
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/user/13196993/

      https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon
      README.md (Excerpt of the main part below. For details, see the site)
      ClearURLs is an add-on based on the “new WebExtensions technology” and is optimized for Firefox and Chrome based browsers.
      This extension will automatically remove tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet,
      which is regularly updated by us and can be found here.
      Features
      ● Removes tracking from URLs automatically in the background
      ● Blocks some common ad domains (optional)
      ● Has a built-in tool to clean up multiple URLs at once
      ● Supports redirection to the destination, without tracking services as middleman
      ● Adds an entry to the context menu so that links can be copied quickly and cleanly
      ● Blocks hyperlink auditing, also known as ping tracking (see also this article)
      ● Prevents ETag tracking
      ● Prevents tracking injection over history API (see also: The replaceState() method)
      ● Prevents Google from rewriting the search results (to include tracking elements)
      ● Prevents Yandex from rewriting the search results (to include tracking elements)
      Permissons
      Reasoning for needed permissions can be found under here.
      https://gitlab.com/KevinRoebert/ClearUrls/issues/159
      Recommended by…
      ● ghacks-user.js
      https://github.com/ghacksuserjs/ghacks-user.js/wiki/4.1-Extensions
      ● Awesome Humane Tech List
      https://github.com/humanetech-community/awesome-humane-tech#tracking
      ● PrivacyTools
      https://www.privacytools.io/browsers/#addons
      ● New York Times Wirecutter
      https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/our-favorite-ad-blockers-and-browser-extensions-to-protect-privacy/#cleaner-links-clearurls
      ● ClearURLs is part of Mozilla’s recommended extensions program

      1. owl said on March 29, 2021 at 6:32 am
        Reply

        Issues Tracker:
        GitLab: Kevin R. > ClearURLs > Issues
        https://gitlab.com/KevinRoebert/ClearUrls/-/issues?scope=all&utf8=%E2%9C%93&state=all
        ● Open 113
        ● Closed 450
        ● All 563
        GitHub: Kevin R. > ClearURLs > Issues
        https://github.com/ClearURLs/Addon/issues?q=is%3Aissue+is%3Aall+
        ● 27 Open
        ● 63 Closed

  19. owl said on March 29, 2021 at 3:35 am
    Reply

    What I am painfully aware of from the reactions and comments of the gHacks community (subscribers) to such article etc are that even skilled users who are not in the beginner class are shortchanging things and playing the spread of hoax. What a shame.
    Even the gHacks community is at this level, allowing Google, Facebook, etc. to do whatever they want. If you calmly analyze the users, you will find that most of the users who use Google are home users, since any decent corporation “does not use third party programs” (the enterprise company I belong to bans all Google programs). In other words, most home users are indifferent to the “dignity of personal information”.
    Home users are not interested in things they can’t be aware of, and their only concern is “free, easy, comfortable, convenient, and cutting-edge technology” as a tool.

    Perfectionist @Iron Heart’s impassioned speech has not reached (or been taken seriously by) almost anyone, with only a handful of sympathizers agreeing with him.
    It is also strange that @Yuliya praises Google and Microsoft for “protecting personal information” in particular.
    The reality of such user affairs is unwavering, which is why Firefox cannot ignore Google’s specifications.
    In the end, it is not the vendor’s fault, but the user’s that is the root cause.
    The reality of Google is a reflection of the state of the world, as commercial companies must match the needs of their users, or they will be displaced.

    1. Unknown person said on April 3, 2021 at 3:23 pm
      Reply

      * [Editor: removed, please stay polite]

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