YouTube’s recent decision to ban ad blockers on its platform has sparked backlash from privacy advocates in Europe who claim that the move violates the region’s data protection laws.
A privacy expert, Alexander Hanff, has filed a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), arguing that YouTube’s adblocker detection system is a form of spyware that requires user consent.
Adblockers are software tools that prevent websites from displaying ads to users, thus improving browsing experiences and protecting user privacy. However, YouTube, which relies on ads for its revenue, has been cracking down on adblockers by blocking access to its videos for users who have them enabled . YouTube says that adblockers violate its terms of service and deprive creators of their income .
Hanff said, “AdBlock detection scripts are spyware — there is no other way to describe them and as such it is not acceptable to deploy them without consent. I consider any deployment of technology which can be used to spy on my devices is both unethical and illegal in most situations.”
Hanff filed his complaint with the DPC in October, after he received a message from YouTube asking him to disable his adblocker or pay for YouTube Premium, a subscription service that offers ad-free viewing. Hanff says that he was not given any option to consent or reject the ad blocker detection script, and that he considers it a breach of his privacy rights.
Hanff’s complaint is not the first one to challenge YouTube’s adblocker ban in Europe. In 2016, he raised his concerns to the European Commission, which clarified that ad blocker detection scripts are subject to the ePrivacy Directive. However, Hanff says that YouTube has ignored the commission’s guidance and continued to use the scripts without consent .
Hanff hopes that his complaint will prompt the DPC to investigate YouTube’s practices and order it to stop blocking ad blockers in Europe. He also hopes that his complaint will raise awareness among users and regulators about the privacy implications of ad blocker detection scripts. YouTube, which is owned by Google, denies that its ad blocker detection system violates user privacy or EU law. A YouTube spokesperson said that the company is committed to complying with the DPC’s requests and that it is working to provide users with more choices and control over their ad experience