Brave Browser has touted itself as a privacy oriented browser ever since it first launched. However, the browser, which started off with privacy in mind, soon started incentivising users to allow ads in exchange for payments with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). For the unaware, BAT is Brave’s own cryptocurrency. Back when we first reported on this, I called this idea “weird”, and turns out it’s weirder than I thought.
Apparently Brave Browser is embedding its referral codes into URLs for major cryptocurrency trading websites. The issue came into attention when a Twitter user called Brave out on this. He noticed that when typing “binance.us” into the address bar, it automatically changed to “binance.us/en?ref=35089877”. That’s clearly affiliate marketing. According to the browser’s GitHub page, the browser does this for a bunch of crypto-trading websites including Coinbase, Ledger, and Trezor.
So when you are using the @brave browser and type in "binance[.]us" you end up getting redirected to "binance[.]us/en?ref=35089877" – I see what you did there mates 😂
— Cryptonator1337 (@cryptonator1337) June 6, 2020
In response to the tweets and the backlash that followed, Brave’s CEO said that he doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with this practice. In his tweet, he points out that the code identifies the browser, not the user. That is true, however, that’s not the issue anyway. Brave is clearly adding its referral codes to websites people are visiting organically and earning money. Moreover, affiliate programs sometimes allow companies to view some data about people who use them. As reported by Android Police, Trezor offers a “detailed overview of purchases.” to affiliates when customers sign up with their affiliate code.
Yes, we partner with Binance as an affiliate. That code identifies us, not you.
— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) June 6, 2020
On the Brave GitHub repo, developers are saying that the feature can be disabled with a toggle. Plus, starting with the next stable release, the toggle will be turned off by default making it an opt-in setting.