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Beware! Google Reader Notifier for Firefox Is Now Crapware

Anybody using the very popular Google Reader Notifier extension for Firefox should probably remove it immediately, as it is now tracking your browsing and displaying ads in your status bar without your consent. Despicable.

The ads are sneaky, and they don’t show up right away… this screenshot was taken from Bernie Zimmermann’s blog, but I’ve personally checked the source code for the extension and found the problem definitely exists—not to mention the Mozilla bug report explains it in detail.

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If you want to see the offending code for yourself, browse down into your Firefox profile’s extensions folder, find the {efa1abef-cb1c-4e40-9bc5-e2e69a3fb329}\chrome\content folder, and you’ll see the st_ads.js file.

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Once you open up the javascript file, you’ll see Loads of tracking and ads going on.

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And whatever you do, don’t click on the ads, because they will take you on an endless redirect through ad-filled pages.

So, How Do I Get Rid of the Despicably Intrusive Ads?

Personally I’d remove the extension entirely, and maybe print the source code off and burn it. But if you absolutely Must keep using this extension, you can simply uninstall the current version, and then install the old version at this URL:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addons/versions/3977#version-0.71

You’ll want to stick with version 0.71 and make sure that when you are prompted to upgrade the extension later, Don’t Do It!

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Rant About Firefox Extensions: What Is Going On?

This isn’t the first time a very popular Firefox extension has sold out to the dark side and become badware. Slashdot reported a while back that the NoScript extension started hijacking the Adblock Plus extension, and while the author has since apologized profusely, I don’t see this problem as going away.

What’s to stop yet another Firefox extension from turning into badware, sneaking in tracking codes, or stealing your personal information? It’s already happened with two of the most popular extensions… Somebody at Mozilla needs to do something about this.

What Can I Do?

Head over to the extension page at Mozilla Add-ons and leave a review expressing your displeasure.

And in the future, you might not want to simply approve every extension update blindly – go to the extension’s page at Mozilla Add-ons, and check the recent reviews before you install any updates.

Thanks to Lifehacker reader Daniel for the head’s up on this one.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/14/09

Comments (14)

  1. Simon Lim

    Thanks for highlighting this issue on How To Geek..it seems all these add-ons developer have a great and creative monetization way via their add-ons/plugin.

    Most of normal user might not noticed if these developers provides an update for the add-ons. Perhaps when they release the add-ons for free, this could be one of their unlawful ways to make some money..

  2. artursm

    Another option is to use a different extension, “Google Reader Watcher” for instance.

  3. Shneakie

    Tried Notifier for a while, but just seemed badly designed.
    Google Reader Watcher is much better and doesn’t do the whole tracking or ads thing.

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4808

  4. Andya

    started seeing the adds last week – actually happen right after i installed ubiquity so i thought it was that. Thanks for the info! Was just removing the adds manually in about:config… This guys doesn’t want people to download his stuff obviously

  5. caschy

    Thanks – will posting it in my german blog.

  6. dogandmusiclover

    I just noticed the ads last night. I had no clue where they were coming from until I did a bit of research and found out it was this extension causing them. I am, like some others, using Google Reader Watcher now. Thanks for this post! I really got upset over the ads because I thought I had done something inadvertently to make them appear.

  7. cyberguy91

    Not quite sure if this is legal, but the license that this add-on has mentions that the not modifying the code part is waived for privacy reasons. I used 7-zip and Notepad to edit the .xpi file. I have sniffed the network packets and I haven’t seen a bunch of ad sites go through there when refreshing, and there aren’t any ads in the status bar at the bottom.
    Here is my modified xpi:
    http://tr.im/googlereadernotifier_na

  8. cyberguy91

    sorry about the problem with my link…
    The web hosting company that my domain is with completely crashed and had to be restored from a backup.
    I’ll try and make the link functional again soon.

  9. Dave

    @cyberguy91: Nice idea, but not needed. Just uninstall the latest version and use the last version before all this, 0.71. The only change from that to the current version is the addition of the ad system.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addons/versions/3977#version-0.71

    Well, there was another change: the name of the author was wholesale purged from all the files and about dialog. Guess that tells you something…

    Of course as already mentioned there are other alternatives which you should consider trying.

  10. 0zSpitt

    another reason to stay away from anything with name “google” in it

  11. Bdoserror

    The plug-in appears to have been removed. Yay.

  12. kenpmason

    The article link above (Head over to the extension page…) is broken, since Mozilla has removed this extension from it’s web site as of July 2009.

  13. Les Johns

    Am an oldie, recently into P.C. Learnt early-on benefits of Firefox. Built my website on XP Pro.It goes to screen ok, but Yahoo won’t recognise it. Google does. ‘Matrix’ threats started; screen would freeze and dim.Was talked into trading-in+$800 on Windows 7. Am now certain that I erred with the domain. but senility seems to be taking over and I don’t have Kellys A to Z of XP. By following it absolutely, I solved many problems. Nothing like it yet to combat Windows 7 woes. How I hate that MS blue. Many StarOffice Writer documents lost in the upgrade or configured, and wordpad icons have dislodged S.O.Writer.It won’t accept HP printer as default and I must switch to IE to print. While still using XP, MS took out all Firefox icons and files and a 60 hour task before back to normal. Thanking you in advance. Hope I didn’t overdo the yapping. Les.

  14. Anonymous

    Nice job everyone! It looks like Mozilla blocked the extension.

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