uBlock Origin, a resource-efficient adblocking extension for Google Chrome, updated yesterday to version 0.9.8.2. With the update came a permissions change – the extension wants to access more data than it did previously. When an extension makes a permissions change, Chrome updates but disables the extension automatically and pops up a little notification to indicate the new permissions.
“uBlock Origin requires new permissions
The newest version of the extension “uBlock Origin” requires more permissions, so it has been disabled.
It can now:
Read and change all your data on the websites you visit
Change your privacy-related settings”
All of that can make it seem quite ominous. Fortunately, the developer provides an explanation on the github project page. The previous permissions were “Read and change all your data on the websites you visit” and version 0.9.8.2 added “Change your privacy-related settings”.
This is necessary to be able to:
Disable “Prefetch resources to load pages more quickly”
This will ensure no TCP connection is opened at all for blocked requests: It’s for your own protection privacy-wise
For pages with lots for blocked requests, this will actually remove overhead from page load (if you did not have the setting already disabled).
When uBlock blocks a network request, the expectation is that it blocks completely the connection, hence the new permission is necessary for uBlock to do truthfully what it says it does.
So, the permissions change is to allow the extension to ensure that the prefetch setting is disabled. This prevents web traffic from “leaking” out and requesting resource you are not going to use (reducing overhead) and prevents those sites from tracking you with fewer requests/cookies from only the sites you intend to visit.
The developer posted that a user opened an issue to be able to opt-out of the prefetch setting and stated the option will be in the next release.
A third permission was also reported “read your browsing history” but this seems to be coming from users on the Chrome-dev channel and the uBlock Origin developer states that permission is not used or needed. It may come down to a way that the Beta version of Chrome is interpreting the tab permissions that uBlock Origin does need.
Overall, you can learn the perspective of each side and decide whether you wish to re-enabled uBlock Origin or move to a different solution.