Report: Publisher Ad-Blocking Detection Could Be Illegal In EU Without User Consent

no-ads-blocker-ss-1920Out of all the publishers out there who are using scripts that are meant to detect ad blockers may need to get consumer consent, or else they would risk violating European privacy law.  This news is coming from the UK Register, where a tweet was picked up by privacy advocate Alexander Hanff.

Jean-Clause Juncker, the president of European Commission, was written to by Hanff, explaining whether ad-blocking detection scripts that are being used by some publishers are using to thwart ad blocking are covered under Article 5.3 of the European e-Privacy Directive.

The relevant language in the article states,

“Member States shall ensure that the storing of information, or the gaining of access to information already stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his or her consent . . .”

The above letter was what Hanff received back from the European Commission.  The letter says that, although in a vague way, Article 5.3 expansively and suggests that publishers are to be required to obtain user consent before detecting ad blockers.  What this means is that publishers have to post notices about the ad blockers, and ultimately obtain an opt-in consent from users.  So somewhere on the site, presumably in a fairly obvious spot on the page, the publisher would have to mention to each user that, by visiting the site, they are consenting to the use of scripts to determine if you’re blocking their ads.

There could be other ways for ad-blocking to be detected that doesn’t require scripts or anything else that would break European consumer privacy rules.  This could create a bit of an issue for some publishers.  Hanff said on Twitter that he would be legally challenging publishers using anti-ad-blocking software.

There are a variety of strategies publishers can use to address the challenge of ad blocking.

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