Risk
1/7/2013
06:38 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
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
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3341
Published: 2014-08-19
The SNMP module in Cisco NX-OS 7.0(3)N1(1) and earlier on Nexus 5000 and 6000 devices provides different error messages for invalid requests depending on whether the VLAN ID exists, which allows remote attackers to enumerate VLANs via a series of requests, aka Bug ID CSCup85616.

CVE-2014-3464
Published: 2014-08-19
The EJB invocation handler implementation in Red Hat JBossWS, as used in JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP) 6.2.0 and 6.3.0, does not properly enforce the method level restrictions for outbound messages, which allows remote authenticated users to access otherwise restricted JAX-WS handlers ...

CVE-2014-3472
Published: 2014-08-19
The isCallerInRole function in SimpleSecurityManager in JBoss Application Server (AS) 7, as used in Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBEAP) 6.3.0, does not properly check caller roles, which allows remote authenticated users to bypass access restrictions via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-3490
Published: 2014-08-19
RESTEasy 2.3.1 before 2.3.8.SP2 and 3.x before 3.0.9, as used in Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP) 6.3.0, does not disable external entities when the resteasy.document.expand.entity.references parameter is set to false, which allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files and have...

CVE-2014-3504
Published: 2014-08-19
The (1) serf_ssl_cert_issuer, (2) serf_ssl_cert_subject, and (3) serf_ssl_cert_certificate functions in Serf 0.2.0 through 1.3.x before 1.3.7 does not properly handle a NUL byte in a domain name in the subject's Common Name (CN) field of an X.509 certificate, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Dark Reading continuing coverage of the Black Hat 2014 conference brings interviews and commentary to Dark Reading listeners.