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Changes to Chrome Extensions and Ads Policies

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Changes to Chrome Extensions and Ads Policies

24 May 2020

24/05/2020
Technology & Regulation in the Spotlight

New Updates to Chrome Policies to Restrict Some Extensions and Ads

Two policy changes in Google Chrome, coming into force in August this year, are about to significantly affect many advertisers, publishers and extension developers in the Adtech industry.

Google Updates its Spam Policy to Keep Spam off the Web Store

Google announced an update to the Chrome web store policy, that will have a significant effect on extensions.

According to the updated policy, developers shall not publish multiple extensions that provide the same experience and functionality, except for test extensions and extensions that work only on specific hosts. In addition, extensions with a single purpose of installing or launching other applications, themes or webpages shall not be allowed. Also, according to the new policy, extensions that abuse the Chrome notification feature by sending spam, advertisements, promotions, phishing attempts or other unwanted messages that harm the user’s browsing experience shall be prohibited.

Under the updated policy, developers will be required to provide a clear and well-written description that truly describes the functionalities of their extensions. Developers shall not use and upload misleading, improperly formatted, non-descriptive, irrelevant, excessive or inappropriate metadata including descriptions, developer names, titles, icons, screenshots and promotional images. Moreover, developers will be prohibited from attempting to manipulate the placement of any extension in the Chrome web store. This includes inflating product ratings, reviews or install counts by illegitimate means such as using bots or incentivizing users to download or provide reviews to their extensions. Unattributed or anonymous user testimonials in the extension’s descriptions shall also not be allowed.

Google has also published additional clarifications regarding the updated policy and its practical implications in its Spam Policy FAQ page.

According to the announcement, the updates are aimed at keeping the quality of chrome extensions available in the web store and preventing developers from uploading spamming and fraudulent extensions. In order to give developers time to adjust to the new policy, Google required that developers would comply with the policy by 27 August 2020.

Google Will Take Down Resource-Heavy Advertisements in Chrome

Google has also announced that starting the end of August 2020, it would limit the resources display advertisements can consume on Chrome. According to Google’s statement, the company recently discovered that a fraction of a percent of the advertisements displayed in Chrome consume a disproportionate share of device resources, such as battery and network data, without the user’s knowledge. Such consumption of resources can be a result of unoptimized use of network usage or of exploitation of resources for various purposes such as mining cryptocurrencies.

In order to save its users’ batteries and data plans, Google announced that it would start limiting the resources display advertisements can use before the user interacts with them. Google is setting the thresholds at 4MB of network data or 15 second of CPU usage in any 30 seconds period, or 60 seconds of total CPU usage. Once the advertisement will reach the one of the limitations set by Google, the advertisement’s frame will navigate to an error page, informing the user that the advertisement has used too many resources.

According to Google, while only 0.3% percent of the advertisements exceed this threshold, they account for 27% of network data used by advertisements and 28% of all CPU usage by advertisements.

Google is intending to experiment the limitations of advertisement resources in the next several months to give appropriate time for developers and advertisement creators to prepare and incorporate these thresholds. In addition, it also published practical guidance for advertisers and publishers in preparation for the change in policies. Google is planning to launch this intervention feature in Chrome by the end of August.

On a similar matter, we recently reported about Google’s plan to phase out third party cookies from chrome by 2022.

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Please feel free to approach us with any further questions regarding the legal considerations and practical implications of the new regulatory frameworks that apply to using AI technologies.

Kind regards,

Ariel Yosefi, Partner

Co-Head | Technology & Regulation Department

Herzog Fox & Neeman

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