Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Brave, the open-source browser designed to prioritize privacy by blocking third-party ads and trackers, is facing criticism from users for redirecting URLs from cryptocurrency companies to affiliate links that Brave profits from, Decrypt reported.
A Twitter user spotted the redirect when he typed “binance.us” into the Brave search bar, and the browser autocompleted it to “binance.us/en?ref=35089877.” Both URLs go to the same page, but the affiliate link at the end can be used to track users and generate income. Many websites, including Vox Media and The Verge, use affiliate links, but most are transparent about doing so.
Brave co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich tweeted that the company had made a mistake and was correcting it. “Brave default autocompletes verbatim ‘http://binance.us’ in address bar to add an affiliate code. We are a Binance affiliate, we refer users via the opt-in trading widget on the new tab page, but autocomplete should not add any code.”
5/ The autocomplete default was inspired by search query clientid attribution that all browsers do, but unlike keyword queries, a typed-in URL should go to the domain named, without any additions. Sorry for this mistake — we are clearly not perfect, but we correct course quickly.
— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) June 6, 2020
When it launched last year, Brave unveiled its advertising system that pays users in blockchain tokens to view ads without accessing users’ personal data. The ads appeared as push notifications instead of the traditional banners. Since the launch, Brave has added other more traditional advertising widgets to its tab pages.
Eich said on Twitter that Brave was trying to build a viable business that prioritizes users and their data, “but we seek skin-in-game affiliate revenue too,” Eich added. “This includes bringing new users to Binance & other exchanges via opt-in trading widgets/other UX that preserves privacy prior to opt-in. It includes search revenue deals, as all major browsers do.”
Brave did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.