YouTube’s latest crackdown on people who use adblockers on the website could put Google in hot water following a complaint by privacy expert Alexander Hanff in Ireland.
YouTube is trying to force people onto the premium tier by disabling the use of the website by people who run adblockers. If no adblock is found on the system, the users are presented with a couple of ads that run before the video. The problem resides with the method YouTube uses to gather information about what the user has on its system.
“In 2016 I wrote to the European Commission for clarification in relation to the use and detection of adblockers in web browsers under Article 5(3) of 2002/58/EC and the EU Commission confirmed (in writing) that the detection of an adblocker would constitute unlawful storage of information (the script used to do the detection) and access to information (the detection of an adblocker) already stored in the terminal equipment of an end user,” said Hanff in the original complaint.
“The Commission confirmed that the use of such technology would require prior informed consent from the end user as it is not considered as strictly necessary for the provision of the requested service.”
“In recent weeks, YouTube (Alphabet) have started to deploy adblock detection technologies unlawfully (without consent) and are using such technologies to block access to their platform,” Hanff added. “This is illegal. I call upon the DPC to take action against YouTube (as the competent supervisory authority) for this breach of the law and demand YouTube cease their unlawful deployment of adblocker detection tools.”
The EU has yet to issue a formal opinion on the matter because Google hasn’t answered the allegations so far.
But Hanff is not stopping there. According to a report by The Register, he also wants to file a criminal complaint with Pearse Street Garda (Ireland’s National Police and Security Service) because he believes that collecting information from people’s computers without their consent, even if it’s just to check for an adblock solution, is illegal and akin to spyware.