Popular privacy extension ClearURLs removed from Chrome web store

ClearURLs
(Image credit: Kevin Röbert)
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Google has removed a popular Chrome extension (opens in new tab) called ClearURLs from the Chrome Web Store (opens in new tab) and its creator has described the company's reasoning for doing so as “ridiculous”.

As reported by The Register (opens in new tab), the Chrome team emailed the developer of the extension Kevin Röbert to inform him that his extension had been removed from its store due to violating its terms. According to the Google Chrome team, ClearURLs was banned for having an inaccurate description, using permissions and keyword spam.

In the extension's page (opens in new tab) on the Chrome Web Store, Kevin Röbert describes how it can prevent unwanted tracking online by removing tracking elements often found inside URLs, saying:

“This extension will automatically remove tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet. Many websites use tracking elements in the URL (e.g.https://example.comutm_source=newsletter1&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sale)to mark your online activity. All that tracking code is not necessary for a website to be displayed or work correctly and can therefore be removed—that is exactly what ClearURLs does.” 

ClearURLs

Although ClearURLs has been available on the Chrome Web Store for some time now, it was removed from the store after Google discovered several violations. At the time of writing though, the extension's page is back up and you can download ClearURLs here (opens in new tab).

Even when the extension was unavailable on the Chrome Web Store, interested users could still download it for other browsers (opens in new tab) including Firefox and Microsoft Edge as well as manually for Chrome from GitHub or GitLab.

One of the reasons that Röbert believes his extension was removed in the first place is due to how it could potentially hurt Google's business model (opens in new tab) as the search giant uses tracking elements in URLs to help advertisers. Still though, Robert made the necessary changes to his extension and appealed against its removal from the Chrome Web Store.

It appears that Röbert's appeal was successful but we'll have to wait and see whether or not Google tries to remove similar privacy-focused extensions that alter URLs from the Chrome Web Store.

Via The Register (opens in new tab)

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.