Risk
1/7/2013
06:38 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

France Halts ISP's Ad Blocking

Ads are content and Internet providers should not be censoring content, argues French digital economy minister.

A French Internet company's decision to begin blocking ads for its customers has been derailed by the intervention of Fleur Pellerin, the country's minister of the digital economy, because blocking one form of content -- ads -- could lead ISPs to engage in further censorship.

"This is an initiative that could endanger the survival of a number of economic actors," said Fleur Pellerin on Monday at a press conference covered by Le Monde. "The government should intervene and enact the necessary legislation to ensure Net neutrality because it's a matter of principle."

Free, a French Internet service provider, decided last week to block ads for its subscribers, a decision that denied many websites the ad revenue they rely on to pay for online content.

A firmware update posted last week for the company's Freebox -- a DSL modem, router, Wi-Fi hotspot, network storage device, phone, DVR and IPTV device -- included an "optional ad blocker" to block ads.

However, the update was not optional in opt-in sense. Rather, users had the option to opt-out of ad blocking, because Free had turned ad blocking on by default.

Now, due to regulatory intervention, Free has suspended its ad blocking, ensuring that free content will continue to be available at no charge, at least for the moment.

[ Apple's 500 million App Store users have been busy hitting the "download" button. Read Apple Hits 40 Billion App Milestone. ]

Ad blocking remains a difficult subject for companies that depend on online ad revenue. Asked to comment, a Google spokesman in an email said, "We are aware of Free's actions and are investigating." The company declined to clarify its stance on the use of ad blocking software.

Large companies like Google tolerate ad blocking because opposing it risks popularizing it and because most users accept ads. What's more, Google provides tools for publishers to block ads that appear on their websites, because publishers demand control to avoid endorsing products or practices that are anathema to them.

For Google to deny that control to users, particularly after so many years of supporting user choice, would be hypocritical. Moreover, preventing users from blocking ads -- if it were technically feasible -- might open Google to liability for malicious ads, which, although a small percentage of online ads, remain a legitimate security concern.

Nonetheless, some websites try to discourage ad blocking, through prohibitions in their terms of service, technical means or guilt.

Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus, a hugely popular ad blocking plug-in for Web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Opera, and (recently) for Android devices, says that trying to block ad blocking software isn't very effective, like any security arms-race.

"Some websites want to block access to people with Adblock Plus," he said in a phone interview. "But it's a community effort. There will always be fast workaround."

Faida says his firm is trying to find a way for Internet users and advertisers to co-exist rather than fight. "It's important that ad blocking is not about destroying advertising," he said. "It's not about censoring content. It's about providing choice to the user."

Faida says that users should be able to determine how much privacy they want and what kind of ads they want. "Our mission is we want to facilitate a middle ground between users annoyed by flashy ads and websites that need to monetize," he said.

His company helps mitigate annoying or intrusive ads by maintaining a whitelist of acceptable ads in conjunction with the Adblock Plus user community. A few large partner companies support the acceptable ads list financially because doing so improves their ad revenue.

Whitelisted ads perform better, Faida insists, generating 15% more clicks in Germany and 5% more clicks in the United States. Coincidentally, these numbers also represent the percentage of Internet users who have installed Adblock Plus: 15% of users in Germany and 5% in the U.S.

The total number of Adblock Plus users is considerable: 43 million worldwide, according to Faida, and growing at a rate of 150,000 daily. And Adblock Plus is not the only ad blocking software out there.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PJS880
50%
50%
PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2013 | 2:25:14 AM
re: France Halts ISP's Ad Blocking
Imagine that a ad free world, what a great place that would be. I do se the point of only advertisers loosing their only source of revenue, which is gained through these ads. I like the idea of the optional ad blocker choice, that way at least the potential consumer has the choice to get ads displayed while they are on the Internet. Faida has one heck of a mission trying to collaborate the two opposing parties to work together effectively.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-0334
Published: 2014-10-31
Bundler before 1.7, when multiple top-level source lines are used, allows remote attackers to install arbitrary gems by creating a gem with the same name as another gem in a different source.

CVE-2014-2334
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiAnalyzer before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2336.

CVE-2014-2335
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiManager before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2336.

CVE-2014-2336
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiManager before 5.0.7 and FortiAnalyzer before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2334 and CVE-2014-2335.

CVE-2014-3366
Published: 2014-10-31
SQL injection vulnerability in the administrative web interface in Cisco Unified Communications Manager allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via a crafted response, aka Bug ID CSCup88089.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.