European Mobile Networks Plan To Block Ads, Not For Your Safety, But To Mess With Google

from the this-is-really-dumb dept

So things just keep getting stranger and stranger online. A bunch of mobile operators are apparently planning to start automatically blocking all mobile ads. Now, for those of you who hate ads online, this might seem like a good thing, but it is not. If you want to disable ads on your own, that should be your call. In fact, as we’ve noted before, we think people on the web have every right to install their own ad blockers, and we find it ridiculous when people argue that ad blocking is some form of “theft.”

But this is different… and this is dangerous.

As the reports make clear, this move has nothing to do with actually protecting the public from malicious or annoying ads… and everything to do with the mobile operators hoping to shake down Google.

The plan ? which would be devastating to companies reliant on advertising ? is not limited to a single European network. Its apparent aim is to break Google?s hold on advertising.

The FT report says that ?an executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year? and will be available as an ?opt-in service? however they are also considering applying the technology across their entire mobile networks.

And, the clear plan is to then go to Google and say “give us money or else“:

The unnamed European carrier in the Financial Times article is reportedly planning to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue.

The companies are using a product called Shine, which has a big bullshit claim on its page that it “champions the consumer’s rights to control mobile ads.” If that were the case it would be offering the tool to consumers. It’s not. It’s selling to big service providers, and then letting those service providers spy on all of your surfing in order to remove the ads.

This should be a serious concern for anyone using a service that signs up for Shine. Even if it’s an “opt-in” offering, what the company is really doing is a form of deep packet inspection and blocking your mobile internet from acting the way it should. In other words, this looks like a net neutrality violation on a large scale.

As we’ve pointed out in the past, the broadband providers aren’t stupid. They know that if they go for a direct plan of blocking or degrading apps you like, it gets people angry. So they look for ways to break net neutrality that look like they’re doing the consumer favors — things like zero rating, and now this. But that’s not what’s happening at all. This is all just the exact same plan as many broadband providers have had for years: figure out a way to pressure Google into coughing up some of its revenue, not by earning it, but by creating a mess for the company.

And, in the process, it’s causing a mess for users by mucking with their internet connections, doing deep packet inspection, and blocking content.

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Companies: google, shine

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Comments on “European Mobile Networks Plan To Block Ads, Not For Your Safety, But To Mess With Google”

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Ninja (profile) says:

The unnamed European carrier in the Financial Times article is reportedly planning to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue.

You know, I’m no expert but wouldn’t this go against any law or at least regulations? I mean, it sounds awfully like a collusion. It would be like an electricity company deciding to arbitrarily cut the consumer energy unless he decided to give them part of their revenue on top of paying the bill. This is how criminals operate: pay up or we destroy you.

this looks like a net neutrality violation on a large scale

Not that it isn’t already being violated like there was no tomorrow, eh?

Hope Google give them a judicial nightmare if they try to extract any cash they clearly don’t deserve.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is Europe where anything American should be punished just for being American, remember?

Well, that’s a pretty recent phenomenon you know? We shouldn’t need to remind Europe just how seriously !@#$ed up it’s been for quite a few centuries now. I’m real glad they managed to sort out all that crap they had going on, but that the US is recently into it too shouldn’t be a surprise, nor unexpected.

beech says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 18th, 2015 @ 8:07am

I must have missed the news that Bing and Yahoo shut down…thanks for the timely (precog?) News.

Seriously though, this is how the system is supposed to work. People voted with their wallets (or eyeballs), they prefer Google. Some middling wireless executives shouldn’t be ableto prevent us from “voting”. They shouldn’t be allowed to pick the winners.

DigDug says:

Re: "But something has to be done".

Why does everyone think that Google controls how well they do on search and advertisement?

It is the “People” that choose to use Google that controls how many times they use Google to search, which then controls which webvertising agency websites choose to use.

It’s the people making a choice that impacts / controls all of this.

If you don’t want Google to have the “power” which it doesn’t have really, then stop using google for searches.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Do these plans apply to Google’s competition too? Oh right, they dont exist anymore.

I use their competition multiple times daily, and have been for years. How is it you’ve managed to ignore their existence? Blind, deaf, and stupid?

This approach is bad but something has to be done

About what, and why? I’m sticking out my tongue and twiddling my fingers in my ears making faces at you. That’s something. Feel better?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Do these plans apply to Google’s competition too?
Oh right, they dont exist anymore.”

You’re right, if you create your own fictional universe based on a single lie, almost any argument makes sense!

Perhaps that’s the real issue with people around here. We’re discussing the finely granular issues that come with the real world, when it’s so much easier to invent a reality to deal with.

beech says:

mission creep

I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned mission creep in the article. What happens next time the MAFIAA wants some sites blocked and, oooh hey! Look! There just so happens to be blocking software already installed! Why wouldn’t you also want it to block child pornographers,terrorists, and – worstof all – pirates?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: mission creep

Much as I agree that there is often some truth and predictive ability of The Domino Theory, I STILL don’t believe we should to prohibit reasonable things because we don’t like “the next logical step.”

This is why I don’t buy the USA conservative argument that “gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because shortly after, some guy will marry his goat.”

If we must create laws, and we dislike step 2, then let’s create laws that prohibit step 2, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

Masnick makes no argument, just assumes that position.

Google directly funds Masnick.

That’s not an accusation, it’s stating a fact. Take the Copia link on any Techdirt page, there’s Google stated as sponsor with logo. Any accusation is from your conclusion.

Sunhawk says:

Re: Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

The thing is, this isn’t blocking Google’s ability to collect information – it’s blocking Google (and others) from displaying ads (whether based on that information or not).

To be honest, though, I wager this is not going to make it past a legal challenge or two, given the coordinated nature of the move. All that’s needed is a demand to Google for revenue money in writing and that could end up very badly for the wireless networks in question

DigDug says:

Re: Re: Wait for the malicious and intentional theft charges are filed against the Cell Companies

Not to mention what happens when the websites stop making money from webvertising, they’ll turn around and sue the Cellular companies for 10x their loss in damages due to the “criminal intent” of stealing income from the websites.

Whether they portray it that way or not, when they block webvertisements for their users, they are intentionally and maliciously stealing from the web site owners.

Way to shoot yourself in your wallets dumb asses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

Masnick makes no argument, just assumes that position.

Google directly funds Masnick.

That’s not an accusation, it’s stating a fact. Take the Copia link on any Techdirt page, there’s Google stated as sponsor with logo. Any accusation is from your conclusion.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

I actually fail to see how forcing google to pay ISPs to deliver ads “reduces Google’s ability to vacuum up everything”. As well, you make no argument, you just assume that that is Mike’s position, so I fail to see how your commentary is any better.

Mike does not argue the point you bring up because it is not the position he is holding.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

And that does what to the conversation? I don’t have a problem if Google is losing revenue due to another business. I have a problem when an ISP scans all of my traffic and blocks adds for me. I have my own tools to do that. Also, if they are doing it because they support the user then they need to do it to all ad companies and not just Google otherwise they just have a childish vendetta.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Anything that reduces Google's ability to vacuum up everything must be bad.

Google directly funds Masnick.

By my count, I’m now forty-five years in as a taxpayer supporting by funding all the wonderful things my governments have been up to. That does not mean I ever intended any of that ever going to you. Correlation is not causation. I imagine Google would appreciate me standing up for them. I don’t care what Google thinks.

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

A couple of points

First off, I don’t get the whole “Google is the enemy” position. If you choose to use Google (gmail, search, etc), then you are CHOOSING to use Google. Just because Google managed to make money, doesn’t make them evil… just successful.

Second, I haven’t seen anyone mention SSL. It would seem that if all websites were 100% SSL (as Google and most security folks recommend), it would make this process a lot harder.

Third, am I the only one that suspects that if the ISPs actually block the Google adds, they will not remove them, but REPLACE them with their own (without payment to the site that generated the traffic)?

Manamongst says:

Re: A couple of points

That would be correct…if they (ISP´s) were set up…chances are given SSL and Googles existing ecommerce superiority, the ISP´s would only extort them into using there own adsense/emclicks hierarchy (ie. adding ISP specific coding to the already long-ass string.)

In the end it is too messy and Google would have too much legal standing in the US courts…which is where european ISPs don´t have the stomach to weather. Because US and European ISP/mobile providers have to share so many quantifiable resources/information/data; not to mention dialcodes and VoIP pricing and regulations, that they would never (and probably have never thought this portion out) fight a battle like this on American judicial soil, they will NEVER win. The impending regulatory, not to mention monetary sanctions for the ISP´s responsible would be too heavy to take. I don´t think they have thought this out.

There are two reasons why you won´t see US isp´s attach themselves to this.

1: they are smart enough not to cross Google…for fear of being shutout of technological advances.

2: The largest US isp´s don´t need to shake down Google, they are diversified enough in data and voice, they see that at any second Apple and Android could take the side of the people, isolating any greedy ISPs.

JD says:

What other content will they unilaterally modify?

Let’s say I’m a website owner, and I choose to run Google ads on my site. That means I’m effectively delegating the selection of some of my content to Google. I’m saying that I trust Google to place relevant and useful ads on the site in a way that will help me offset some of the costs of running that site (and maybe even earn some money).

This brings up a few questions:
– By blocking the ads on my site, the ISPs are modifying the content of my site against my wishes and against the wishes of my readers. What other content will they be allowed to modify? If they don’t like a story I publish, do they get to block that, too?
– What’s to stop the ISPs from domain-blocking just ads? Can they domain-block the websites for competing ISPs? If an ISP is also owned by a media company, can they domain-block Netflix, Hulu, or other alternative media sources?
– If my ad revenue drops to the point where I’m losing money, can I file a complaint against the ISPs and get some of my money back?
– On a related note, does this mean I could use the ISDS provisions of some free trade agreements to force the ISPs to either undo this or to just cut me a check?

And I see products like AdBlock as the reader side of this; the reader is explicitly delegating the selection of content to the browser plug-in, and that’s 100% okay.

Anonymous Coward says:


>Also, im not sure how giving ISP’s a cut of Google’s revenue ‘does something’ about the supposed lack of competition.

So far as I can see, this will harm competition. How does giving the entrenched monopolist yet another revenue stream help foster competition among ISP’s?

Oh…sorry, ISP’s aren’t SUPPOSED to have competition, it’s an unconscionable intrusion on their inalienable business model.

Now all that remains to emmanantize the eschaton is for governments to outlaw SSL, to protect the public from rogue business websites (and, of course, terrorists, child pornographers, and, worst of all, music sharers.)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“This story is about Europe, where I understand they don’t have a problem with entrenched monopolist ISPs.”

It’s also about mobile, where there’s generally less competition. Although most areas have at least 3 or 4 competitors, some do have a history of colluding. If, say, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone all decide to do this, your choices are suddenly very, very limited even if there are one or two or major competitors for you to choose from.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m not a lawyer but to me it seems that this is in a very dark grey zone.
To find the ads they have to go through all your traffic which means they read/check everything you receive until they find the ad(s). This in my opinion is in violation of data protection / privacy of communication.

After some yahooing/binging/googling I found this view of the EU
Paragraph: Privacy issues
“Moreover, the content of communications is protected by the right to confidentiality of correspondence, which is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 8) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Article 7 and Article 8).”

I might misinterpret this section but to me this sounds like the ISPs are not allowed to read your packets and that the DPI they apparently want to do might be against the law.

tqk (profile) says:


If you look at the search results for Google (or any other search engine) the first page is dominated by the companies who paid the most money

Care to try again?

Official site – Proxy – Highlight
Ixquick – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Proxy – Highlight

Ixquick (styled “ixquick”) is a metasearch engine based in New York and the Netherlands Founded by David Bodnick in 1998, Ixquick is owned by Surfboard …
Startpage Web Search * – Proxy – Highlight

Startpage offers you Web search results from Google in complete privacy! When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information from your query and …
Startpage Web Search * – Proxy – Highlight

Startpage offers high quality meta-search results in full privacy!
Ixquick Search Engine * – Proxy – Highlight

Download the Ixquick Toolbar – Ixquick Search Engine * – Proxy – Highlight

More features: Click on the arrow next to Ixquick’s logo to customize, your toolbar search, delete cookies or change the “setting” options. Easy switching between …
Ixquick (@Ixquick) | Twitter * – Proxy – Highlight

The latest Tweets from Ixquick (@Ixquick). Ixquick is the world’s most private metasearch engine. Netherlands
Ixquick | Facebook * – Proxy – Highlight

Ixquick. 3,230 likes · 48 talking about this. is the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick does not record your IP address or…
Ixquick * – Proxy – Highlight

Ixquick, a Metasearch Engine – About Web Search * – Proxy – Highlight

What Is Ixquick? Ixquick is a metasearch engine, meaning that it pulls results from many different search engines and directories and presents them all in one simple …
PRIVACY – How we protect you – Ixquick Search Engine * – Proxy – Highlight

Shocked? You are not alone. When we search, we share our most private thoughts with our computers. These private thoughts should be safe. Ixquick’s position

Anonymous Coward says:

This should be good

I would think this would not affect Google at all.
Just start forcing certain services to require adds. If adds are being blocked, you tube service degrades, or stops, when customers complain, just tell them that it’s their carriers fault.
Alternately just have Google set up all data traffic to be encrypted. If the carrier wants to do DPI, they need to decrypt first, and that would be expensive if at all possible. That would also fuck with data retention.

lifeform23 says:

ISP liability

In Canada the ISPs are immune from liability for things their customers do online, because they have no role in what their customers do online. The minute they start filtering content they accept liability for their customers’ copyright infringemnts, libels, etc.
Be interesting to see if they try to have their cake and eat it too.

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