Brave, which makes a privacy-focused web browser alternative, has been caught redirecting searches to crypto companies with affiliate links that pay it a commission. The firm says it has already stopped doing this immediately.
“A serious error in judgment [that] needs explanation,” Brave CEO Brendan Eich tweeted in response to one complaint about this practice. “We will never revise typed in domains again, I promise.”
Like many other browser makers, Brave takes the open-source Chromium web browser and adapts it, in this case by removing Google’s tracking technologies, blocking ads, and dramatically improving its performance and privacy. But Brave is unique among browser makers because of its business model: The firm offers opt-in advertisements called Brave Ads by which it derives some revenues.
Silently redirecting search queries, however, is a serious breach of trust. And while Eich maintains that his firm is simply “trying to build a viable business” and “seeks skin-in-game affiliate revenue too,” this wasn’t the way to do it. Worse, Eich says that there was nothing sneaky about the redirects, since the browser’s source code has always been available on GitHub.
The good news? The URL redirects never exposed any user data to affiliates, which makes sense given Brave’s privacy focus. But this may be a long-lasting blow to Brave’s reputation, something this small company and its controversial CEO can hardly afford.
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