If you have been using the Stylish extension for the last few years, you’ve more than likely become dependant on themed websites, I know I have. Having a clutter-free, dark theme active for popular websites like Facebook and YouTube, among dozens of others has been a great asset. Unfortunately, as Stylish as recently been revealed to be a chronic data collector and professional spyware tool, it’s time to look into alternatives.
Anybody who spends a considerable amount of time on the Internet knows that just about every product, service, program, app, extension, etc has the potential to be loaded with spyware, malware, ransomware and of course viruses. Because of this, users generally pick and congregate towards products and services based on their user ratings and user count. For example, an extension with 2 million plus users should be clean and clear of malicious content, right? Apparently not!
A classic example of this was the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal which opened a lot of eyes to the process of data collection and it’s value to third-party operatives. Unfortunately, in another similar scandal Stylish (a very popular theming extension) has also been identified as a major data collector, building entire user profiles based on data collected from their web extension. In a nutshell, Stylish has been compiling data on every website you have visited, with more access and detail than Facebook could dream of, as the Stylish extension and its permissions give them direct access to your browsing data.
Although this wasn’t always the case with Stylish, it was overhauled and implemented after being purchased by an analytics company called SimilarWeb back in January 2017. The news/breach was brought to light recently by Robert Heaton who quoted the following on his personal blog.
“Unfortunately, since January 2017, Stylish has been augmented with bonus spyware that records every single website that I and its 2 million other users visit. Stylish sends our complete browsing activity back to its servers, together with a unique identifier. This allows it’s new owner, SimilarWeb, to connect all of an individual’s actions into a single profile. And for users like me who have created a Stylish account on userstyles.org, this unique identifier can easily be linked to a login cookie. This means that not only does SimilarWeb own a copy of our complete browsing histories, they also own enough other data to theoretically tie these histories to email addresses and real-world identities.”
When the news broke, Firefox was the first of the major browsers to remove Stylish from their add-on page/extension page and even went as far as removing it from users browsers (where possible). Chrome wasn’t far behind in removing Stylish from their extension store, however hasn’t yet (as of writing) removed it from users browsers (where possible). If you still have Stylish installed on your browser, It’s imperative that you uninstall it immediately.
Note: As an extra level of precaution It’s probably also a good idea to change all your website login details.
Stylish Alternatives For Google Chrome and Firefox.
If you are looking for an alternative to Stylish now that it is dead, there is another extension called Stylus which has been around for quite a long time and is open source. Stylus is just as easy to use as Stylish and uses the same library of themes, and skins so you can continue to use the same themes you had with Stylish. (Don’t be alarmed by the fact that Stylus uses the Stylish library of themes, as themes aren't linked to the data collection process.) With Mozilla and Googles, attention now focused on these kind of extensions, Stylus won’t have anywhere to hide if they had any ill intentions.