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Preview: Adblock Plus and (a little) more - Blog

Adblock Plus and (a little) more - Blog





Updated: 2018-04-23T15:32:57Z

 



German Supreme Court: Ad blocking is legal, Axel Springer lose final appeal

2018-04-19T16:15:45Z

Maybe you’ve been following along, maybe you haven’t, but I’ll keep it short: Axel Springer publishing house has been trying to get ad blocking declared illegal. We beat them in the regional courts, we beat them in the appeals court, so they took us to the supreme court in Germany to try their luck a third time.

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Today, we are extremely pleased with the ruling from Germany’s Supreme Court in favor of Adblock Plus/eyeo and against the German media publishing company Axel Springer.

This ruling confirms — just as the regional courts in Munich and Hamburg stated previously — that people have the right in Germany to block ads. This case had already been tried in the Cologne Regional Court, then in the Regional Court of Appeals, also in Cologne – with similar results. It also confirms that Adblock Plus can use a whitelist to allow certain acceptable ads through. Today’s Supreme Court decision puts an end to Axel Springer’s claim that they be treated differently for the whitelisting portion of Adblock Plus’ business model.

We are excited that Germany’s highest court upheld the right every internet citizen possesses to block unwanted advertising online. As we have since 2014, we will continue to fight for users’ rights in Germany and around the world.

So, it’s been a good day for internet users and ABP today. If you’re interested, you can read a little more about the story here and here.




Get antisocial to protect your data.

2018-04-12T11:50:29Z

The Facebook/data scraping controversy train rumbles on, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.Given the Zuck’s performance in Washington, there are still plenty of questions to answer. We’re keeping close tabs, and we’re committed to helping you keep your data out of Facebook’s grabby little hands.

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The post-scandal knee-jerk reaction for many people was to delete their Facebook profile. Seeing how cavalier large companies are with data, it’s understandable. Yet, it’s akin to closing the door after the horse has bolted. It’s also a very bold move, and for many people it isn’t an option, as Facebook is life. As it’s so hard to delete Facebook entirely, Adblock Plus is here to keep your data safer without losing precious social activity.

Let’s talk about social media sharing buttons. Facebook, Twitter and Google all have them. They’re everywhere, and they look kind of innocent. They’re also pretty useful as they let you share stuff to social media with no effort. Unfortunately, they also send your data straight to the social networks. Even worse, you don’t have to click them for this to happen. As you look at the page, they send requests to the social network’s servers, whether you click or not. By doing this, social networks create a profile based on your browsing habits. It’s one of the main ways that companies like Facebook are able to grab your juicy private data.

The BBC puts it this way “If it’s even possible to tot up how many buttons are out there on the web, expect a number in the hundreds of millions – that’s hundreds of millions of pages with which Facebook is tracking your activity beyond its own borders.”

Even thinking about it makes me feel a little dirty. Luckily, Adblock Plus is on the case. We have a little-used, often-overlooked but VERY cool Social Media Buttons feature. This allows you to block a lot of Facebook (and other social network) tracking when browsing the web. We update this feature a lot (we beefed up our blocking filters 18 percent since last year) and we’d like you to try it out.

To block social buttons, click here, then click “open this dialogue.” You can also click here, then click “Subscribe: Fanboy’s Social Blocking List.” Here is a browser-specific guide for installation if you’re still having trouble… Of course, you can also subscribe to new filterlists like this one in the Options menus within the ABP extension.

Now, blocking social buttons doesn’t stop tracking on Facebook.com or the Facebook app. Unfortunately we can’t control what goes on in their “walled garden.” The only way to stop on-site tracking is to delete Facebook. That doesn’t mean that all is lost. Adblock Plus helps you on Facebook by blocking annoying and malicious ads. We had a bit of a cat-and-mouse game with Facebook ads, but we’ve now been blocking their ads since September 2017.

So now you know. On Facebook or off it, Adblock Plus has your back. Get it here (if you haven’t already!).

Adblock Plus shows how to disable social media sharing buttons to stop social networks tracking you off site.




The AdBlockChain and how you can become part of it

2018-04-01T12:16:52Z

It’s not a secret anymore, every tech expert and presumably all of you know that blockchain is the game-changing technology that will revolutionise almost every industry. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have become mainstream and some predict they will soon replace traditional, paper-based currencies. At Adblock Plus, we’ve always been on the forefront of new digital developments. We built the tools that help you shape your internet experience. What started with a simple ad blocker has grown much bigger. Adblock Plus still blocks all annoying ads but it is also a mighty tool for privacy protection. With Adblock Plus’ sister project, Flattr , we change the way money is earned on the internet. Today we are excited to announce another major breakthrough: The AdBlockChain With the AdBlockChain (ABC) we are combining two things we all really care about deeply: The protection of your private data and money. The recent scandal around Facebook and the private data of millions of users that was abused by Cambridge Analytica showed that more and more internet users are fed up with having their personal data stored and processed without their consent. But it’s not just Facebook that keeps your data, every single ad banner on the internet is transferring data about you to numerous third party companies. In fact, the adtech industry has grown into a giant data swamp. We recently showed you how Adblock Plus helps you to keep your data safe. In the EU, where we are based, new legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into effect on May 25th, ruling most of the current tracking practices illegal. This new law has been in discussion for quite some time and fortunately, most adtech companies have realised that instead of fighting it, they should try to make their business more user-friendly. Behind the scenes we talked to some of them to share our insights on user-friendly ad-practices. And we soon discovered huge potential for cooperation. Adtech companies have vast computing power that was used to store and process all the user data retrieved through tracking technology. These machines would be redundant after GDPR. But why not use them for something good? So we decided to use this computing power to mine our very own cryptocurrency! With more than 100 million Adblock Plus users worldwide we have the unique opportunity to kickstart this new currency, allowing it to be equally widespread and successful as Bitcoin and Ethereum in just a few months. We will soon publish details about our ICO. What we can tell you already is that we will honour our loyal users and offer special conditions to all of you. As every cryptocurrencies value raises with the number of users and investors, we encourage you to invite all of your friends and family who don’t use an adblocker yet to download Adblock Plus today. They will profit and so will you! PS: We will, for very obvious reasons, never use your computer for mining cryptocurrencies. That is a fraudulent practice and we want you to stay safe from that. It’s not a secret anymore, every tech expert and presumably all of you know that blockchain is the game-changing technology that will revolutionise almost every industry. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have become mainstream and some predict they will soon replace traditional, paper-based currencies. At Adblock Plus, we’ve always been on the forefront of new digital developments. [...]



Malvertising: The problem, and the very obvious solution.

2018-03-27T12:18:26Z

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You’re a smart cookie. You have a neat little virus checker, you avoid the most disreputable websites (especially on your work PC) and you’re pretty clued up when it comes to downloading software.

All is good, life is great. Until one day, you notice something wrong. Something… virusy… on your PC. How could this happen? You did everything right!

Well, this time, maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe it’s MALVERTISING (thunder crashes, lightning flashes, wolf howls, etc.)

What the F is malvertising?

MAL*icious ad*VERTISING. Snappy!

Malvertising is what happens when ads mutate. No longer merely irritating, annoying and user-experience destroying, they can now become dangerous…

The unscrupulous folks who design viruses and malware know that most of you know the common ways of getting a computer virus (except Steve in accounts, that guy is always downloading dodgy stuff). So, they need a way to get past your anti-virus, malware checker and propensity to visit only the most trustworthy websites.

A fun way of doing this is buying real, actual ad space on real, actual websites. This ad space is then used to fire all kinds of horrible crap into your PC. The worst part? The websites themselves don’t even know they are carrying this horror, and even the ad providers are unaware. This means that by the time anyone realises… IT’S TOO LATE.

Your defenses aren’t good enough

Yeah yeah, we know. You’re the type of person who would never, ever, click on an ad, right? We know that because you’re reading an article from Adblock Plus, purveyors of high-quality ad-blocking software.

Malvertising is designed to get around your defenses. Even if you don’t click on an ad, malvertising can still get you. Just opening a page is sufficient in some cases.

Throw your laptop into the sea

Ha, just kidding. Before you get all “woe is me” and “will this nightmare never end?” remember – YOU CAN’T HAVE MALICIOUS ADS IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY ADS.

That’s right. Adblock Plus destroys not only the irritating ads, but also the infectious ones. It’s like antiseptic cream! Rub Adblock Plus all over your web browser and you’ll reduce the risk of malvertising.*

  • For all other infections, please see a real doctor.

Simple virus checking isn’t enough. Viruses can now hide in ads, and you may not know until it’s too late!




Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Your Data and You

2018-03-22T15:59:19Z

It was only a quiz, how did it end up like this? It was only a quiz, it was only a quiz… The big, scary news this week is the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you have somehow managed to avoid the entire thing, I’ll bring you up to speed: A quiz, developed by a Cambridge University academic for his company Global Science Research, invited users to find out their personality type. The quiz scooped up data on the people taking the quiz (around 270,000 people), but crucially also harvested data from friends of the people taking the quiz without their explicit consent. It seems that this data harvesting affected around 50 million people, which in itself is prettttty shady. That’s just the tip of the Zuckerberg though… This data was then sold to Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly did some very shady stuff with this data, like, targeting voters in an attempt to swing an election kind of shady. Since then, Facebook’s rules on how companies can access data have changed, but still… Now of course, everyone involved denies everything, but whatever happened the whole debacle has opened a lot of eyes to just how these companies operate, and the amount of data they get from you. The BBC posted an article that advises people about keeping your data safe(ish) on Facebook, so we thought we’d drop in our own 2 cents on the matter. Use us: One of the top pieces of advice in the BBC article is… You guessed it… Install an ad blocker! Obviously, if you’re reading this then you probably have one installed already, but on the off chance you don’t, that link will get you our very own Adblock Plus, which will protect you from a lot of bad ads, suggested posts and blah blah on Facebook. Honestly, try it – it makes Facebook actually usable! App check time: I know what it’s like – convenience is king. Logging into websites with an email address and a unique password is hella boring. Plus you never remember the password, and spend half your time requesting password changes. Or is that just me? Anyway, point is, a lot of places make it easy to log in using Facebook, and the convenience of it paints over the fact that they ask for a lot of permissions that are there explicitly to grab your data. Go to facebook, hit Settings – Apps and start tidying up. Remove all the apps you don’t use, and change the permissions of those you do. Disable platform: A more extreme version of the above. Hit Settings – Apps, go to “Apps, Websites and Plug-ins” and click edit. Then, hit Disable. This will kill the ability to use Facebook integration on third-party apps or websites (such as signing in with Facebook). This can be a bit annoying, but it does a lot to protect your data. Delete Facebook: This was a trending idea after the scandal broke. How realistic it is depends on your ability to live life without Facebook. I’m warming to the idea, as I definitely get a lot more done without Facebook trying to get my attention. Now, be aware that Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to actually delete your profile — it’s more like it goes into hibernation, but if enough people do it, it sends a strong message to the company. Honestly though, if you’ve had Facebook for any length of time, the damage is probably done. Before you delete it though, if you want a nervous chuckle, why not download the data Facebook has on you? Hit Settings – General and click “download a copy of my Facebook data.” It’ll take a while – anywhere between 10 mins and 24 hours, but you’ll get emailed a zip file of your data. My unzipped data file (not being a prolific Facebook user) weighs in at 815mb. It’s nice to see all those old cat GIFs again though. Conclusion: While it should be no surprise that giant corporations offering “free” products are doing evil stuff with our data, for many people this scandal was a bit of a wakeup call. In a nutshel[...]



What you can block with Adblock Plus, part 2 (video)

2018-02-21T11:46:08Z

As we promised in the last installment of what you can block with Adblock Plus, this time it’s all about interstitials. And in particular it’s about asking WTF is an interstitial, anyway?

If you find advertising and the jargon that puffy-chested ad execs use to describe it at ads conferences boring … you’re not on an island there. But it is important to understand what all those terms and acronyms mean, if you want to understand what’s happening when you go online. And one term that gets tossed around a lot – not to mention one of the worst ad formats on the internet – is called an interstitial.

When we were checking what Google Chrome’s new ad filter will filter off the top – and finding out that it’s very little – we recalled how truly jarring interstitials can be.

But enough of the jaw-jawing. I know someone named Professor Ads, and he enlightened me on what these between-page interrupters are … and reminded me that ABP blocks em all.

frameborder="0" width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WSytSiMlvAk?html5=1&autohide=1&enablejsapi=1&controls=2&fs=1&modestbranding=1&rel=0&showinfo=0&theme=ligh" allowfullscreen>

Ever been marooned at an ads conference where people are throwing around words and alphabet soup acronyms that have no meaning? Even if you rather wouldn’t, it’s helpful to understand this jargon so you can understand your surroundings on the web. So today we got some help from Professor Ads, who defined for us just one of these terms … the “interstitial” in a new video.




What you can block with Adblock Plus, part 1

2018-02-08T13:49:06Z

We haven’t published a list of all the things that Adblock Plus blocks … ever, really. So we thought it was time to remind our users and tell those who haven’t decided to employ an ad blocker yet, of all the ins and outs of ad blocking and exactly what we protect users from in the big bad world of online advertising. Remember, we started out focused on blocking ads on desktops and laptops, but can be used to block a virtually limitless amount of elements on an ever-expanding amount of devices. For instance, our mobile ad-blocking program recently started taking off by closing the year out with 15 million new downloads on Android mobile devices.

Some of the more obscure uses of Adblock Plus get lost in the ether. Like, did you know you can enable it in privacy/ghost mode on your computer?

What never gets forgotten is the function that’s wrapped up in the name: blocking ads. That’s what this post is about, so below we’ve listed just some of the many ads you can block with Adblock Plus.

(Just a few) ads you can block with ABP

… and lots more. Speaking of interstitials, stay tuned for a video, “WTF is an interstitial?”, which’ll be coming soon in the next installment of what you can block with Adblock Plus.

P.S., have a use for ABP that only you know about? Did you write a special filter list or modify blocking rules in some awesome way, like getting rid of all those inter-animal it’s-so-cute videos? Let us know @AdblockPlus

For readers of this blog, it’s probably pretty obvious what all you can block with ABP. Or is it? We’d like to provide our users — from those who know it all to all the newbies out there — as well as people who don’t use an ad blocker yet, with a series of blog posts detailing what you can do with ABP. First up, the crux of the biscuit: ADS.




Adblock Plus and Safer Internet Day - keeping your kids safe!

2018-02-06T15:54:49Z

The internet is a great place for kids and teenagers to explore, learn and share experiences with their friends. But the internet can also contain harmful images and videos, inappropriate advertisements or viruses. Taking our cue from “Safer Internet Day” we would like to highlight how you can protect your child on the internet. As well as our hints and tips, parents, teachers and relatives should educate children and young people about using the web responsibly and strengthening the development of their media competence. The Safer Internet Website features resources for every topic and even differentiates between ages. Besides these resources, a lot of countries have local websites with an event list, don’t forget to check them out! Protect your children from abusive ads There is a wide variety of ads on the internet. Some pop-up directly, some blink or flash. Some ads have auto play videos, while still others can contain viruses or malware. With Adblock Plus in your browser, these ads are blocked and your kids can enjoy great sites without being marketed to, or having their online activity tracked while they browse. but what about mobile? In 2014, we reached the point where there are more mobile devices in the world than humans – and this isn’t going to change in 2018. Sooner or later every kid will have a smartphone and using these devices safely should be an important part of a child’s education. As on desktop, it is important to supervise how your child uses their phone. With Adblock Browser for iOS and Android, or Adblock Plus for Samsung Internet and Safari, you can protect your kids from abusive and potentially harmful advertisements, tracking and malware. Bad ads Besides the pure annoyance of flashing or pop-up ads, there’s a darker and more harmful side to the world of advertising. Advertising can be sexist, over-sexualized or foster certain negative stereotypes. Blocking these advertisements plays a part in protecting your children from some of this shameful or downright inappropriate content. Talk with your children Sit down and use the internet together with your children and understand why they are using different websites. Give them room to show you what they experience. Young people discover the internet in a different way to the previous generation, growing up with it as a part of their everyday life experiences. Giving them room to express fears or confusion about the internet is as important as giving them room to experiment with the internet and computers. Maybe your child is a future Adblock Plus developer ;) Malvertising Besides annoying and abusive ads, there are plenty of other sneaky methods to get on your computer. Some ads can trick you into installing a certain software or ask you for personal data. Since last year there are new formats that run in the background and mine cryptocurrency with your computer – the infamous cryptojackers (read our former blog post about that). You can find other filter lists online that protect you from cryptojackers, social media buttons or tracking in general. The filter lists are the backbone of Adblock Plus and you can choose what you want to block by yourself. You and your kids are in full control to block the stuff that annoys or worries you! Ads should be labeled as ads Advertisement comes in different forms online but it is mostly connected to what we read, watch or search for. Some ads are cleverly disguised as news or articles, and are difficult to spot. Twenty-six percent of kids could clearly differentiate an advertisement from other content when something was labeled as an ad, as discovered by the research of the regional office for media in North Rhine-Westphalia. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to stay informed and up-to-date, and educate young people regularly about new vulnerabilities and problems that o[...]



What will Google Chrome’s new ad filter actually block? We investigate...

2018-01-24T13:02:02Z

People have been asking us for months now what the new Google Chrome “ad filter” will look like. The answer is harder to determine than it might seem, because this update to Chrome wasn’t available in any of the Chromium builds when we were testing. Apparently, earlier today, the change landed in Chrome 64 on Android – but not desktop, where we wanted to test. So we had to do some digging. We felt that you, our users, needed to know what to expect. Our investigations into the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) yielded surprising results. We took the specifications from a white paper from last year called Determining a Better Ads Standard Based on User Experience Data. The CBA’s white paper tested 55 different types of desktop ads for acceptability. We compared what the CBA qualified as acceptable ads against the the current Acceptable Ads definition. (The Acceptable Ads criteria were maintained by eyeo, with its community, but future iterations are in the hands of the Acceptable Ads Committee, an independent body). Here is our handy spreadsheet of side-by-side comparisons for each ad type tested Google has announced that it will follow the CBA’s definition for ad acceptability. From 55 types of ads, the CBA says that only nine of those ad types are egregious enough to block. *It was not always clear where the CBA drew the line, so a few ad types tested were difficult to judge. This was especially true in two cases, both marked in the above spreadsheet with comments. We hope we were accurate in our interpretation. There weren’t many edge cases, though, so it doesn’t affect the big picture. For example, the CBA says that the following ads and more are permissible: Autoplay video ads (as long as they don’t automatically play sound) Skippable prestitials Ads that initiate up to 12 seconds of scroll lag to ensure you see them Flashing ads Side-rail takeover ads You get the picture. Apparently, these new CBA standards bravely skim off the ads that may induce massive eye-gougings upon viewing. In total, the new CBA-endorsed ad skimmer will only block 16.4 percent of the ad types listed in its white paper. In comparison, using the Acceptable Ads standard, Adblock Plus (and other ad blockers) block 51 different ad types, or 92.7 percent of those ads. Ad filter? More like ad skimmer … Now, in fairness to Google, they had a lot of courage to step into the ad-blocking waters at all. Most of parent company Alphabet’s revenue comes from advertising after all. We’ve always maintained our admiration for Google’s efforts, not to mention those of the CBA. For some, Google’s double role as enforcer of CBA standards in Chrome and voting member for the CBA is a bit like the fox guarding the henhouse. Yet, looking at the bigger picture, the goals of the CBA are to: improve advertising (good) shield users from the worst ad experiences (also good) What’s underpinning this is also good, because the proposed system lets users decide for themselves what they want. (“User control” is a synonym for “the internet” IMHO). I mean, users can still download ad blockers, tracking blockers, etc. on Chrome. But now, out of the box, Chrome skims nine out of 55 ad experiences off the top of the pile (not bad). After doing this experiment, it was clear to us that there was a literal gulf between the CBA and AAC standards. Which … is also cool. Like I said at the outset, part of the reason we did this was because users had asked about the differences, and none of the askers had investigated. Now we know – and knowing is half the battle. Now that we have the quantitative line in the sand, the qualitative difference between the AAC and CBA becomes even clearer: the CBA wants to make ads so good (eventually, I guess) that people won[...]



How cryptojackers maliciously worm their way into ads to turn your computer into their mining zombie

2018-01-09T21:57:06Z

Cryptocurrency’s fire right now. You probably own some. Hell, your grandmother’s probably got some Ethereum stockpiled to leave your grandpa with.

As it grew in popularity, it was pretty much inevitable that people would start to game some aspect of it. The first scam came from websites that tried to cryptojack your computer to mine for them directly. Like ye olde Pirate Bay, which enlisted your computer’s CPU to power its crypto mines, so they wouldn’t have to rely on ads. Some people didn’t want their CPU being treated like that. So we told you about this back in September and provided instructions on how to avoid getting cryptojacked when you visit a website.

Betcha wouldn’t have guessed that something rotten like this would seep into the pristine waters of online ads, did ye? Well, recently CoinDesk reported that cryptocurrency mining is being performed directly from ads. Whereas before it was the website itself that was mining, now it’s an infected ad … which could turn up on any ad network, then show up on any site – unbeknownst to the network, the site … and you. In this case it was an advertising platform called Spotad, which spotted some suspicious activity on its network that turned out to be an ad that would force your computer to mine crypto for it.

Basically, if you interacted with the ad, your computer would start mining for a boss you’ll never see and who’ll never pay you … but who sucks the CPU out of your computer for its mining habit. PC Magazine even warned about this problem back in September, saying the practice was mainly isolated to Russian-speaking ad networks. Seems it’s on the move.

Really, it works just like malvertising, when ads stuffed with malvertising sneak onto legitimate ad networks. It’s just that now the ads will be sucking your CPU for sweet crypto.

The good news: since you’re reading this blog, you’re probably safe. You’re likely blocking ads and therefore keeping out the cryptojackers who have learned to disguise themselves as ads. Best tell Grandma though … err, wait, if she owns all that crypto, she’s probably been blocking ads since ’06 … Maybe it’s time to have a chat with Grandpa?

Cryptojacking is back. And this time, as opposed to being directly run on particular websites by the owners, it’s attached itself to ads that could end up anywhere … just waiting to suck your computer’s CPU to keep the lights on in its crypto mine. Ever need another reason to use an ad blocker?