SafeBrowse Chrome Extension Mines Cryptocurrency Without User Consent

The topic of in-browser cryptocurrency mining will not go away anytime soon. There are quite a few instances where mining Monero trumps displaying traditional ads. It all comes down to giving users the opportunity to enable or disable this feature. The popular SafeBrowse Chrome extension did not give users this choice, as the feature is automatically enabled.

SafeBrowse Mines Monero Without Consent

Many companies are now showing an interest in the concept of mining Monero through users’ browsers. While this concept makes a lot of sense to companies and service providers, the everyday computer user has no love for this. Such users will oppose this concept unless they can opt out of the experience. So far, that has proven to be pretty difficult, if not impossible.

The SafeBrowse Chrome extension is a perfect example of how this feature can quickly become a major problem for users. Considering how over 140,000 users rely on this Chrome extension, it was only a matter of time until someone noticed something fishy was taking place. In fact, a lot of users quickly noticed how the CPU usage of this extension was going through the roof rather quickly. After a quick look into the matter, experts discovered the extension was mining Monero on behalf of the developers.

This behavior is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination without consent. Implementing such a drastic change without warning users or asking for their consent in the first place can be disastrous for maintaining customer trust. Moreover, it has made the SafeBrowse team experience a PR nightmare due to their behavior. Many highly negative reviews have already been posted on the SafeBrowse extension’s Web Store page.

Ever since The Pirate Bay experimented with this cryptocurrency mining feature, the concept has quickly gained more traction over the past few days. SafeBrowse embedded the Coinhive JavaScript miner into its extension and updated the tool through the store accordingly. This effectively allows the developers to use other people’s computer resources to mine CryptoNight cryptocurrencies including Monero, Dash, DarkNetCoin, and a few others.

Anyone who has installed this Chrome extension will need to be very wary of this situation. All of its 140,000 users are susceptible to cryptocurrency mining, which means the company could soon be earning a lot of money off those users. It is especially shocking to see the company not asking for user consent. After all, if it had asked community members to opt in or opt out of such a feature prior to implementing it, things would have been far more successful. Unfortunately, that is not the case right now, which is pretty problematic.

Unfortunately, it is also not the first time the SafeBrowse team has caused controversy through their Chrome Extension. In November of 2015, the developers embedded a feature to load analytics code as a way to track users across the web. Said feature did not require user consent either, which immediately put the company in many people’s bad books. According to the SafeBrowse team, the integration of this Monero miner was done without their knowledge, although very few people will believe that story until more evidence is provided.