Electronic Frontier Foundation & Others Weigh in on Chrome Ad Filter

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The Basics of Chrome’s New Ad-Filtering Program 

It is not a universal ad-blocker. It targets sites that allow four types of desktop ads and eight types of mobile ads that violate the standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads. On desktops:

  • Pop-Up Ads
  • Auto-Playing Video with Sound
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  • Large Sticky Ads
      

    On mobile:

  • Prestitial Ads
  • Pop-Up Ads
  • Ad Density Higher than 30%
  • Flashing Animated Ads
  • Auto-Playing Video Ads with Sound
  • Postitial Ads with Countdown
  • Full Screen Scrollover
  • Large Sticky Ads

“By focusing on filtering out disruptive ad experiences, we can help keep the entire ecosystem of the web healthy, and give people a significantly better user experience than they have today,” Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, a Google vice president, wrote in a blog post on Feb. 13. “We believe these changes will not only make Chrome better for you, but also improve the web for everyone.”

But…

But, as The New York Times pointed out in a recent article, “Google did not become the creator of the world’s most popular browser and a dominant advertising force by running its business in a manner that did not serve its own interests.

And..

As Rich Kahn, the CEO of digital advertising company eZanga told CNBC, “This gives Google even more power over the internet now than ever before,” Rich Kahn, the CEO of digital advertising company eZanga tells CNBC. “When does one consider it to be too much power in the hands of one company?”

Plus…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit digital rights organization, issued a statement saying the Chrome move “fails to address the larger problem of tracking and privacy violations” on the web. It also criticized Google and the Coalition for Better Ads, calling it a trade group that “lacks a consumer voice.”

Other points EFF made in their blog post

If it is so benign, how will it stop users from installing more draconian ad blockers?

“Coverage of Chrome’s new feature has focused on the impact on publishers, and on doubts about the Internet’s biggest advertising company enforcing ad standards through its dominant browser. Google has sought to mollify publishers by stating that only 1% of sites tested have been found non-compliant, and has heralded the changed behavior of major publishers like the LA Times and Forbes as evidence of success. But if so few sites fall below the Coalition’s bar, it seems unlikely to be enough to dissuade users from installing a blocker. Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, has a lot to lose should this strategy be successful. Eyeo argues that Chrome will only filter 17% of the 55 ad formats tested, whereas 94% are blocked by AdblockPlus.”

Is Google Becoming Too Powerful–Again?

“Google exploiting its browser dominance to shape the conditions of the advertising market raises some concerns. It is notable that the ads Google places on videos in Youtube (instream pre-roll) were not user-tested and are exempted from the prohibition on auto-play ads with sound.” This risk of a conflict of interest distinguishes the Coalition for Better Ads from, for example, Chrome’s monitoring of sites associated with malware and related user protection notifications.

There is also the risk that Google may change position with regard to third-party extensions that give users more powerful options. Recent history justifies such concern: Disconnect and Ad Nauseam have been excluded from the Chrome Store for alleged violations of the Store’s rules. (Ironically, Adblock Plus has never experienced this problem.)”

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