Guy Argues That Anti-Ad Blocker Systems Violate EU Privacy Laws

from the well,-that's-a-twist dept

We've talked about how ridiculous it is that many news sites (including Wired and Forbes -- and apparently, now, the NY Times) have started using annoying anti-ad blocker software, in which it will block visitors from viewing their content if those sites detect (or think they detect) that you're using an ad blocker. This is ridiculous on any number of levels, but most of all because it is forcing people to put their computers at risk. Plenty of people have tried explaining to publishers that this practice is a bad idea, but to no avail.

However, over in Europe, one privacy activist thinks he may have found another path. Alexander Hanff wrote to the EU Commission with his reasoning, claiming that anti-ad blockers are a form of spyware that illegally violate the EU's ePrivacy Directive by not getting consent. As you may have noticed, not too long ago, when you started visiting EU-based websites, it would always inform you of its policy on storing cookies, and requesting that you "accept" the site's policy. This was because of a new electronic privacy directive, that some have called the Cookie Law. However, as Hanff notes, it's quite possible that using an ad-blocker detector script is basically doing the same sort of thing as a cookie in terms of spying on client-side information within one's web browser, and a letter he received from the EU Commission apparently confirms his assertion.
It's unclear from the excerpt of the letter that he's posted if it's quite as slamdunk a case as he's indicated, but it certainly is an interesting read of the law. Either way, Hanff has made it clear that he's going to use this "opinion" from the EU Commission to go after a ton of websites using anti-ad block systems:
Of course, from the sound of things, if Hanff is correct in his analysis, this could make things trickier for EU sites that want to use anti-ad-block software, as they'd have to first get users' consent, and give them some level of control (possibly allowing them to just bypass the ad blocker check entirely). There are all sorts of reasons why the war on ad blocking is a bad idea, but here's one more possibility, especially for EU sites.

Filed Under: ad blockers, alexander haff, anti ad blocker, cookie law, eprivacy directive, eu, media, privacy, spyware


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  1. icon
    dakre (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:53pm

    Ad blocking is unstoppable

    I love when these articles come up, since I use Ad Block Plus to keep myself safe from malicious ads. In some cases, you will come across a website that can detect the ad blocker, but only because of certain checks it makes. Surprise! You can check how they do it by looking at the site's source code, and that makes many sites easy to unblock.

    For example, without naming sites, I've seen one check if an ad element (or box) has a height and width greater than 0, and blocks you if the box is set to 0. I just add a line to the ABP filter and I have access again!

    At some point, enough businesses, websites, and individuals will be taken seriously, and ad companies will have to change their ways. Preferably to ads that don't drive you nuts or harm your computer...and maybe TV ads won't take up 20 minutes of your 60 minute show...#CordCuttingIsReal

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