YouTube Faces Criminal Complaint for ‘Spying’ on Users While Detecting Ad Blockers: Report

YouTube could face criminal charges in Europe for allegedly spying on users, according to a report. The Alphabet-owned video streaming platform recently introduced restrictions on ad blockers on the service, preventing users who used specific browser extensions from viewing videos. A privacy consultant, who has deemed Google’s new system to block ads ‘spyware’, is now preparing a complaint against Google under Irish law, for detecting ad blockers on users’ computers, weeks after filing a civil complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commission.

Privacy consultant Alexander Hanff is filing a complaint against YouTube under Ireland’s computer abuse law, The Register reports. Ireland’s National Police have reportedly acknowledged the consultant’s complaint and sought more information. According to Hanff, the video streaming service’s browser interrogation system — tracking scrips that are designed to identify ad blockers in use on a browser — is the equivalent of spying on citizens in the EU.

Last month, YouTube began cracking down on ad blockers globally, pushing users to either allow ads on the video streaming platform, or opt for the company’s YouTube Premium subscription. Days after informing users that the use of ad blockers would not be permitted on the service, the company raised the price of YouTube Premium subscriptions in seven countries — existing subscribers have a three-month grace period before they will be charged the new subscription fee, according to the company.

Hanff also told The Register that he believed the script used by YouTube to detect ad blockers was deployed with one purpose — to monitor his behaviour (whether ads were allowed to load in his browser) without his knowledge or authorisation — deeming it spyware.

According to the report, the consultant opted to file a criminal complaint against the search giant due to regulators’ abysmal track record of enforcing the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive (or ePrivacy Directive) that came into force in 2002.

Hanff’s decision to file a criminal complaint comes shortly after he filed a civil complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commission against the video streaming platform’s new browser interrogation service. Google must now provide a response to the commission regarding the claims made by the privacy consultant, according to the report.

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