About once every other month, I uninstall Google Chrome and Firefox so that I could do a fresh install. While browsing the Google Chrome Web Store for my favorite extensions back in July, I noticed something strange. Stylish, a popular browser extension that allows you to theme websites, was no longer listed. At first, I thought it was just me being silly or doing something wrong. So, I decided to do a little research and discovered unfortunate news. Stylish has been discovered as being a surveillance tool. Interested in learning more about this, I did a little digging on Google, until I found the best covering article for the topic… Robert Heaton, a Software Engineer, wrote on his website:
​”Stylish sends our complete browsing activity back to its servers, together with a unique identifier. This allows it’s new owner, SimilarWeb, to connect all of an individual’s actions into a single profile. And for users like me who have created a Stylish account on userstyles.org, this unique identifier can easily be linked to a login cookie. This means that not only does SimilarWeb own a copy of our complete browsing histories, they also own enough other data to theoretically tie these histories to email addresses and real-world identities.”
Thanks, Robert, for your wonderful explanation! My puny little monkey brain seems to take in your information quite well! As opposed to when I read most other blogs, thinking: “What the (bleep) is this, a history class? Just get on with it!” Your writing is the writing of a true genius. There’s nothing new in terms of information that I could offer, really; other than just to share my thoughts. But even then, who am I anyway, right? Sure, we can argue that “SimilarWeb” states that they only collect “non-personal” data, but that doesn’t really offer much comfort. In this day and age, I don’t believe that data can be “non-personal.” Data always leads back to its origins, in some form, no matter how small; and as Robert says, accidents happen. I’m not too sure how I feel about this. All I know is that it was removed from the Chrome Web Store for a reason, and it does technically break the GDPR laws, so in a way, I’m glad. However, today, as of November 24, 2018, it’s listed on Chrome’s Web Store, again. The company made no effort to address these issues in an appropriate, timely manner. It’s malware. It’s as simple as that, your data is not safe. These days, web developers in my experience, get away with too much, even if it’s not necessarily “dangerous.” But again, definitions are important. Circumstance does not change what is right or wrong. Be it ad-blockers that actually inject ads for profit into your browser (cough Brave Browser), malware posing as VPNs, or extensions that have access to personal data without any real reason. If you’re looking for an alternative to Stylish, try Stylus.

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