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Think Privacy CEO launches site to ‘name and shame’ publishers using ‘illegal methods’ of ad blocker detection


By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

May 2, 2016 | 4 min read

Chief executive and founder of Think Privacy, Alexander Hanff, today (2 May) launched a website encouraging internet users to report publishers using illegal methods to detect the use of an ad blocker, a ‘name and shame’ exercise designed to prevent privacy encroachment.

Hanff, an advocate of services and technologies which do not require personal data for currency, previously voiced the legality issue of blocking ad blockers at Ad Week Europe, claiming he had spoken to EU regulators who are of the view that publishers detecting ad blockers by using a script are technically breaking the law.

The reads: “Under European Law, it is illegal for web sites to access information on your computer or device without your consent (with very limited exemptions). “In a recent written opinion by the European Commission, they confirmed that the detection of adblocking tools by accessing information on a person’s device without first obtaining consent to do so, is illegal under Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive.”

The site goes on to state its purpose to ‘name and shame publishers’ who are using said ‘illegal’ methods to detect an ad blocker, with a call to action to report anti-ad-blocker messages so Think Privacy can “investigate the site and if necessary take the appropriate legal action against them”. “If you visit a web site and see a message asking you to turn off your adblocker, there is a high chance that web site is breaking the law” the site reads. The site claims that display advertising has become “increasingly intrusive” and a “serious security risk”, saying adtech companies tracking the behaviour of internet users is a “fundamental intrusion on your legal right to privacy”.

It goes on to state that people have started to use browser tools such as ad blockers to prevent advertisers from being able to do this. However, AdBlock Plus’ operations and communications manager Ben Williams said for a publisher improving privacy and security is not very relevant in the ad blocking issue, since “this is not the main reason people install ad blockers”, with only 13-15 per cent of users choosing extra privacy protection on ad blocking software.

The site also actively encourages visitors who are not already ad blocker users to become one, reading “if you don’t you are at risk of privacy violations, fraud and identity theft”. The plea goes as far as encouraging “your friends and family” to install an ad blocker “for their own safety”.

In a collection of tweets announcing the site, Hanff said for ‘legal reasons’ he has to manually verify every reported site.

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