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Brave Browser Forces Users to Use Affiliate Links with Autofills in Address Bar

As the delineation between the public and private becomes increasingly crystalline in these uncertain times, individuals are attempting to safeguard their privacy and personal data more than ever before and turning to alternatives that help them stay safe on the digital plane. Blockchain and cryptocurrency have been hailed as privacy-centric solutions where users are protected from a centralized entity’s surveillance and control, which has helped blockchain-based systems and applications thrive in the last few years. Brave, known for its privacy-focused and ad-free browser, has come under fire recently due to affiliate links found on the browser.

Twitter user @cryptonator1337 pointed out on June 6 that his searches for some companies such as Binance end up being autofilled with a specific Binance URL with an obvious referral code linked at the end. Those familiar with referral links will know that when these links are used, the owner of the link is eligible for ‘commission’, whether in the form of monetary rewards, points or some other benefits. When the user typed in “binance.us”, the referral link is hard coded and users are forced to enter the Binance website via “binance.us/en?ref=35089877”, the affiliate link. Upon further investigation, Brave does this for other companies as well, such as Ledger, Trezor and Coinbase, according to Decrypt.

This has received the ire and criticism of users who find that affiliate links can identify them or compromise their privacy, which is ironic for a browser intent on returning privacy and control back to its users. Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave and one of Brave’s developers, Brave Sampson, have stepped forward to provide clarification on the affiliate links as well, but users were not satisfied with the responses.

“We have a few affiliate IDs which would be offered to the user via the autocomplete list. These don’t impact user data or privacy in any way. They were intended only to offer users a clean way to support Brave. Nothing nefarious here at all. That said, we’re reverting,” Sampson mentioned in his tweet

On the other hand, Eich called this a “mistake” and to speculation that Brave was surviving on affiliate link rewards, the CEO said that while this is not a major source of revenue for Brave, their users “want Brave to live” and this is one of the ways that the browser is supplementing its income. To accusations that Brave was being ‘sneaky’ about this, Eich also mentioned that the codes are all available on Github for everyone to view, and that the use of affiliate links is not new for Brave. Despite this, some users are of the view that affiliate links usage in this instance, along with previous scandals, without announcing it clearly, is a sign of betrayal against Brave’s ethos. 

You may also want to read: Zoom-ing Out of Non-Encrypted Chats; Could Brave be the Answer?

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