The enforcement against non-compliant browser extensions has reached a new regulatory stage. While in the past most enforcement measures against such extensions were mainly taken under the respective browsers’ policies, it has now become an interest of the Federal Trade Commission )”FTC”( as well.
The technology company Vulcun has agreed to settle FTC charges that claimed it had unfairly replaced a web browser game with a program that installed applications on consumers’ mobile devices without their prior consent. Vulcun, which purchased Running Fred, a Google Chrome browser extension game, allegedly replaced it with its own extension named Weekly Android Apps, which purported to offer users unbiased recommendations of popular Android applications. In practice, the extension installed certain apps directly on the consumers' Android devices while bypassing the permissions process in the Android operating system.
The FTC’s complaint charged that Vulcun’s actions unfairly put consumers’ privacy at risk and misled consumers by saying that their extensions provided independent and impartial selections of advertised apps, as well as misrepresented third-party endorsements received by the extensions.
Under the terms of the settlement, the company will be required to disclose to consumers details about the types of information a product will access and how it will be used, display any built-in permissions notice associated with installing the product, and get users’ explicit consent prior to the installation or material change of the product.
This case outlines yet again that the FTC vigorously pursues cases involving false and deceptive statements made to online consumers and its enforcement measures to improve consumers' choice and control with regard to their personal information.