IAB UK Strikes Back at Claims that Ad Block Detection is Illegal

IAB Guy Phillipson PortraitFollowing our interview with privacy advocate Alexander Hanff yesterday, IAB UK CEO Guy Phillipson has issued a statement responding to Hanffs claims that the detection of ad blockers by publishers is an illegal act.

“When Alexander Hanff declared at Ad Week Europe that employing detection script technically contravenes the ePrivacy Directive – because it involves placing a file on the users computer – he took the widest interpretation of the so-called cookie law,” writes Phillipson.

“But lets just step back a bit and consider this. For a publisher to present a cookie notice, to comply with the law, JavaScript is used to render the consent banner. In fact, media owners have to use script all the time, for example to detect whether the user is on a smartphone or a laptop to render an optimised experience. Imagine if they had to ask the readers permission every time!

“Of course this activity is perfectly legitimate for doing business and it can easily be argued that employing ad blocking detector script falls into the same category. Its simply used to detect whether ads are displayed or not.”

This is something Hanff addressed in his interview, rejects as “complete nonsense. There are exceptions within the EU ePrivacy Directive which make it very clear that any script or any technology used specifically for delivering a service requested by the user is exempt.”

However, Phillipson suggests that the issue actually runs much deeper, and may in fact be a problem with the cookie law itself:

“This technicality over the legality of detection script is just another discrepancy in the long list of questions surrounding the poorly drafted ePrivacy Directive,” he says. “Thats why the European Commission has called a review this year, and well have an opportunity to call for an amendment to cover this issue.

“In the meantime we are looking into the legal situation, which is far from clear cut, in more detail. We believe that the question of whether permission needs to be sought to detect ad blockers – and therefore whether detection is legal – depends on the circumstances and we will be feeding the results of our analysis back to our members, once we have more clarity.”

You can read Phillipsons full statement here.