The most recent incident has seen browser autocomplete URLs complete to a specific crypto site with an affiliate link, without notifying the user what is going on.
Take advantage of the privacy browser
For those who are not familiar with affiliate programs, the most important note is that this issue does not jeopardize user privacy or involve any kind of hacking.
Affiliate programs are a way to monetize a website. In this case, a special URL is provided to an affiliate company to promote the partner’s services. When someone signs up via that premium URL, the affiliate gets some kind of payment for it.
Many countries have laws requiring affiliates to disclose their relationship with an advertiser if links of this type are posted. In the United States, the FTC requires sites to detail their relationship with affiliate partners in a clear and easily visible manner. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has similar provisions that require affiliates to be disclosed when user tracking is conducted.
In addition to it being an unethical practice, it is possible that Brave violated some of these regulations through their referral scheme. When a user enters the name or URL of some cryptocurrency site in the privacy browser, it will automatically redirect them to that site with the Brave referral code attached to the URL. Binance, Coinbase, Ledger, and Trezor were among these sites.
H. apologized for the scheme once it was discovered by users, stated that it had been fixed, and vowed that the company would not do it again. However, he also defended this practice by saying that the affiliate referral scheme has been visible in the browser’s open source code for several months. “We made a mistake, we’re correcting: the default Brave literally autocompletes ‘http://binance.us’ in the address bar to add an affiliate icon. We’re a Binance affiliate, referring users via a trading widget,” Eich stated in a series of Twitter posts. on the new tab page, but the autocomplete shouldn’t add any code… Sorry for that bug – we’re obviously not perfect, but we correct the path quickly.”
Esch noted that revenue was necessary for Brave to support itself. Privacy Browser Central Revenue Scheme is a subscription ad scheme that attracts users with a bit of cryptocurrency if they allow specific ads to be shown. Ads are meant to be for display only and not contain any personal user information. Users get portions of Brave’s “Basic Attention Token” (BAT) for every ad they view. BAT is an Ethereum-based token that can be redeemed on a number of sites where the Privacy Browser has been auto-completing referral links.
Thistles go their own way
At least one group, which follows “BraverBrowser” on social media, is suggesting a fork from an open source project that completely removes all form of advertising and BAT. However, this new split is being led by the developer of nOS, a similar privacy browser that has its own attention token equivalent to BAT called NOS.
Another fork called Dissenter, announced about a year ago, proposed replacing BAT with Bitcoin. The project is linked to Gab, a social media platform that has built a reputation for extremist free speech policies and as a haven for controversial ideological views that tend to be underrated elsewhere.
It remains to be seen if this controversy leads to more attempts to shape the popular browser, which recently benefited from the endorsement of broadcast star Joe Rogan. However, this is not the first time that the privacy browser has been criticized.
When it was first announced in 2016, a number of commentators in popular tech magazines took issue with the fact that Brave blocks ads that websites display (and often rely on them for revenue) in favor of its own system.
Brave also has a system called Brave Rewards, which allows privacy browser users to opt in to offer small cryptocurrency payments to the sites they visit. This requires publishers to sign up for Brave in order to receive these payments. However, some publishers have noted that users of their site report that Brave offers an option to donate even if the publisher has not registered or been in contact with Brave; These “donations” seem to go to Brave instead if the publisher doesn’t sign up and collect them.
While these issues will likely represent a loss of some business for Brave, the company is still at the top of the mountain in terms of privacy browser branding. A recent study by Trinity College found Brave to be the most private of the popular browsers, doing the least “call home” for developers and advertising partners. Other browsers like Chrome and Firefox can be made relatively private, but they require a lot of tweaking to the default settings.