Adblock: YouTube accused of espionage and violating European laws

by Jerry

YouTube and Meta are accused of using spying scripts. The plaintiff, Alexander Hanff, a professional specializing in digital privacy, has filed a complaint with the Irish National Police. In his complaints, Hanff claims that the script used by Google to prevent adblock tools falls under spyware, the name given to spying programs, because it monitors users’ devices.

By reporting the cases to the Garda, Ireland’s national police (a body similar to our Federal Police), the professional hopes that the case will go to court. In a LinkedIn post, Hanff explains that he is opening the complaints for the two companies based on sections 2 and 5 of the Information Systems Crimes Act, signed into law in 2017 in Ireland.

The expert has also filed a complaint with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, a body whose job it is to monitor compliance with European Union (EU) law in the country. However, in an interview with The Register, Hanff reports that the EU and national data protection bodies are failing to protect users’ interests.

YouTube uses “spying” to block adblocks
It’s not new that everyone knows that social networks spy on us (for example, I only talked on WhatsApp about my move and YouTube started throwing me ads for furniture stores). However, Alexander Hanff’s prosecution uses the newly released script to detect the use of an ad blocker extension.

Ever since YouTube started preventing videos from running for those who use adblock, a portion of users have been trying new ways to follow without ads on YouTube. Hanff’s case is, as far as it has been learned, the first to attempt to judicialize the video platform’s anti-adblock policy.

In the interview with The Register, Hanff explains that Google’s code is espionage because it is launched without the user’s knowledge and authorization on their device, with the sole purpose of monitoring their browsing behavior.

This justification is also used in the indictment against Meta and its monitoring of data to send targeted ads. The privacy expert reinforces, in both situations, that companies have access to what happens on your device. In the case of Meta, he also states that since 2018, almost a year after the law on crimes related to information systems was enacted, the company has not had a legal basis to justify the processing of user data.

On his LinkedIn, Alexander Hanff, who has a master’s degree in cybersecurity and privacy, said he will give a deposition in Dublin, where Garda’s headquarters are located, “in the near future.”

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