Adblockers are becoming more and more popular. Why? Well, there are several reasons.
One of them has to do with user perception of online ads. According to a recent KPMG survey of more than 2,000 people, 46% of adults in the UK said they would block ads because “they do not like adverts at all.” The report also found that more than 40% said adverts lacked relevance, while 34% said misuse of personal data was an issue.
Ads aren’t just annoying, however. In some cases, they can also pose a threat to users.
In attack campaigns known as malvertising, bad actors leverage vulnerable ad networks to download malicious content onto users’ computers. It was only last month that we saw reports about some of the most popular news and entertainment websites spreading malware to readers via compromised ad networks. Well known sites such as MSN, BBC, and The New York Times redirected visitors to the notorious Angler Exploit Kit, which spread malware.
Attacks are clearly on the rise, which is why younger people, who tend to be the most active online, seem to be at the forefront of using adblockers. The KPMG study revealed that almost 60% of 16-24 year-olds plan to make use of adblocking software in the next six months.
However, there are some problems.
One issue is that many popular websites are moving to deny access to people who use an adblocker because those individuals are technically not generating ad revenue. According to some, that move is understandable, as journalists do not work for free and many websites do rely on advertising revenue in order to survive.
It a difficult predicament, especially given the inherent benefits of adblockers to users. Security veteran Tony Martin-Vegue clarifies this point:
“Most security experts will advise users to use ad blocking software, despite the fact that many people in the field are content creators themselves,” he said. “It’s the single best tool for average users to defend themselves against malware. It is even more effective than anti-virus software, which can easily be circumvented. When ads are not properly vetted and monitored or rely too heavily on technologies like Adobe Flash that is easily exploitable, everyone suffers – Internet users and content creators alike. When ad networks create an experience that is safe and enjoyable, users will follow.”
With the KPMG study revealing that almost 30% of respondents claimed to have used an adblocker in the last month, those sites that block visitors who use an adblocker will surely see a drop in traffic as readers migrate elsewhere. That´s bad news for channels that have decided to block anti-ad plugins.
To add insult to injury, sites that detect ad-blockers and stop users from visiting could soon be found in violation of European law.
As first reported on The Register, Alexander Hanff, a privacy campaigner and programmer, said he received a letter from the European Commission confirming that browser-side web scripts that pick out advert blockers unlawfully access people’s personal data.
Hanff stated he will be using the Commission’s letter as basis for a series of legal challenges against firms that use anti-ad-blocking software. Next week, he’ll also be setting up a website for people to identify websites that use the code so that a list of potential defendants can be readily identified.
It´s an interesting twist in an ongoing saga that will likely not go away soon.
Indeed, the debate between security experts and advertising agencies is likely to go on and on.
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