How does Hypothesis use permissions in the Chrome extension?

How does Hypothesis use permissions in the Chrome extension?2018-03-12T11:17:05+00:00
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When you install the Hypothesis Chrome extension, you will receive a notification from the Chrome browser asking for the following set of permissions:

Permissions requested by Hypothesis Chrome extension: Read and change all your data on all websites you visit; Access your browsing activity; Communicate with cooperating website; Change your settings that control websites’ access to features such as cookies, JavaScript, plugins, geolocation, microphone, camera etc.

Chrome overstates what Hypothesis needs permission to do — we don’t use your camera, for example! We ask for these permissions because the extension needs them in order to work with your browser and the websites you visit. However, our intention is only to access the minimum permissions we need to in order to do these things on your behalf, and nothing more. We don’t monitor, track or collect any of your personal data beyond what is necessary for creating, saving and reading your annotations. Hypothesis does not generate revenue from advertising or from selling metrics to third parties.

The language and definition of these permissions are set by the Chrome browser, and they are meant to tell users what the kinds of data the extension will be able to access. (To read more about Chrome extensions permissions here’s a great article about it in Lifehacker, and there’s much more technical documentation at the Chrome website). Some permissions change during updates, and you may occasionally be asked to approve a new one.

This is how we currently use each of the requested permissions in the Hypothesis extension:

  • Read and change all your data on all websites you visit: we ask this so that we can inject the annotator code into the page, allowing you to add and read annotations. We don’t read or modify any other data.
  • Access your browsing activity: we need this to maintain the state of the Hypothesis extension on windows or tabs you have open. We also need this in order to tell you (via the extension badge) when a page you visit has been annotated. We don’t keep track of what you do in the browser.
  • Communicate with cooperating websites: this permission is used to communicate with the Hypothesis website to know, for example, if you have the extension installed or not.
  • Change your settings that control websites’ access to features such as cookies, JavaScript, plugins, geolocation, microphone, camera etc.: we ask this so that we can log you into Hypothesis. This permission comes with boilerplate text, but we don’t use your camera, microphone etc.

In the future, we’re planning to eliminate the need for that last permission by changing how authentication works on our application. Your privacy is very important to us and we ask you for as little information as we can. Please read our Privacy Policy for more details on how we handle user information. If you have any questions or would like some more details, please write to support@hypothes.is or create a ticket here.

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