Your Data On All Websites (Big Brother)

[ begin rant ]

I recently read Chromium 11 will have text to voice built in. Thats awesome, isnt it? I did not have to the time to see if 11 was available, if there was a PPA, etc so I just went to the Chrome Web Store and looked for an app or extension for text to voice. There was one so I proceeded to click the install button. Up came this note...

Im giving some random extension access to not only my tabs and my browsing activity for God knows what reasons, but also MY DATA ON ALL WEBSITES. I could not install this. This is just one extension out of hundreds of thousands available. Heck, we even made an I Heart Ubuntu web store app, which is nothing more than a weblink to our site. I wrote the code so I know whats in it... its just a visual web link, no scraping of data. Certainly not all my data across all the websites i've visited. And this extension was kind enough to tell me its sinister plans, imagine some apps not going into detail their true intentions.

Privacy is important to me. Security is important to me. These Chrome apps and extensions concern me enough to consider making the switch back to Firefox 100% (I jump between the two browsers).

In this brave new world where Apple and Google are collecting our GPS data and giving it to the GOV, where TomTom is now selling personal traffic and driving data to police, where schools are monitoring teens at home secretly with built in webcams, where web browser monitor you... are we safe anymore? Are we private? Are we secure? How do you cover your tracks from intrusive behavior? Do you stop using Google products? Or Apple products? Do you switch operating systems (like I did to Ubuntu?). What steps to do you take?

While its not possible for everyone to do this, I also recommend people be careful when downloading DEB files floating all around the internet or installing random PPAs people suggest. Get them direct from the company that makes the files and even ask around if they are legitimate and trustworthy.

I write this uneasily after a simple app was almost able to retrieve pretty much ALL OF MY DATA. I read this to mean my CC info, my name, address, birth date, whatever I may have entered in some time in the past. Be careful out there my Ubuntu friends. Be very careful.

FINAL NOTE: For an interesting look into some of this, Frontline did a great 90 minute story called Digital Nation. You can find it here:

[ end rant ]

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  1. One of the reasons why I don't like Google Chrome just because Google has become too greedy with it's quest for data and information. Every time I think of Google I picture out Jim Carrey in his role as The Riddler with his invention that "reads" peoples thoughts in one of that Batman movie franchises.

  2. Yah, thats pretty much how I look at Google too. Apple as well. Microsoft too!!!

  3. Anonymous10:18 AM

    You've not understood the permission. "Your data on all websites" means that the extension will be able to see the content of every webpage you visit. If you'd like the extension to be able to read pages to you, then it will need to potentially have access to any page you visit. A more limited permission is "your data on the following websites:..." for an extension that handles just certain sites (e.g. a google search helper). Without one of these permissions, the extension will not have access to any of the pages you visit and, obviously, will not work. Please stop scaring people.

  4. Anonymous - So what are you proposing? Just to let any-name plugin collect all of your data? Thats like installing a rogue PPA and trusting it outright. Not a brilliant idea. Im sure there are ways around this instead of collecting all of the website content I visit. Could it not be feasible to have the user highlight what text he/she wants read to them? No data collection needed except for what was highlighted.