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Ad Blocking probes may be illegal in the EU

Alexander Hanff, CEO of Think Privacy went on a twitter tear Saturday after he received a letter from the European Commission confirming that browser-side web scripts that pick out advert blockers access people's personal data, and thus must be treated like cookies in the EU - that is you have to ask for the users permission first. So, people must first give consent before one of those anti-ad-blocking Javascripts starts hiding content from users. Sites like Forbes in the USA will likely not have to oblige, but European based news sites will have to consider this. The EU cookie law has been in force since May 2011.

The get around the issue of getting consent, the publisher might consider not showing anything at all until they get consent from the reader, but this poses the very high risk that the reader simply goes elsewhere for their news. What would you do if you met a black page?

Hanff spoke on Twitter about launching a website to detect which sites in Europe are using ad blocker-probes, and this may run afoul with the law, calling it a "name and shame" website. "This will allow people to help with my research by reporting publishers and adding them to the database & will make legal complaints easier." That's bad news for the publishers who have decided to block those who are using ad block.

Of course, kicking the ad tech hornets nest will get attention, and Hanff says he got it in spades. The article that published the EU letter to Hanff on The Register already has 245 comments.

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