Security

Google Clarifies It Is Not Blocking The Adblocking Services, It Is Merely “Improving Them”

A few days back, Google announced that they are getting ahead with their plans regarding the ad block services and changes in many user APIs in the name of Manifest V3. Despite many pleas and widespread distress, Google is working on the Manifest V3. In a nutshell, what it means for the users who use adblockers to protect their privacy, their adblockers will not work as they were working before. Other than this, Google will only be employing unrestricted access to enterprise users only. While Google is saying, that is not the case. In its favor, Google states that it won’t be killing adblockers; it will only make them safer.

It may seem confusing, but what Google is saying is exactly the opposite of what the users ‘think’ their adblockers are doing. Google is saying that they are improving the adblockers due to concerns regarding the privacy of the users, while many users add adblockers in their browsers to protect their privacy. Although Google has not shown any evidence regarding the misuse of privacy due to adblocking services, we can not deny that the possibility is still there. The new APIs will only work for the consumer userbase of the Chrome browser; the enterprise users will not be affected.

Now, let’s see how these changes will affect the daily usage of users who use adblockers while web browsing. I will not be getting into the details of why people use ad blockers. For those who don’t know what an adblocker does, it merely does what it is called. It blocks ads. There can be many reasons why people opt for adblocker; the main reasons are privacy and web experience.

Manifest V3

We have already reported that Google is implementing an extensions menu in the latest Chrome build. It is only the start, Google is actually changing how the exertions of your browsers access the internet. The wide range of changes that the Manifest V3 includes, blocking systems which rely on webrequest APIs. Ghostry is one such API which will be most affected as blocking capabilities on this API will be most restricted. Google is allowing the APIs that use “declarativeNetRequest,” though the rules are limited to only 30,000 as opposed to 75,000 rules currently.

These are pretty much only concerns that the user who employs adblocker. Google has built automatic ad filtering content into Chrome, and it will come into effect on 9th July. However, this will only do little for the 1% users in North America and Europe who still think ads are thwarting their web experience.

Improving adblockers

The Register reports that according to statistics published by Google, adblockers have been a significant source of  Google’s limited ad revenue. So, Google may think that these services are thwarting Google’s adware business. The tech giant has not established the security concerns of using the adblockers services. In fact, these services defend against malicious ads that install malware on the devices by blocking them. We can always use the ethical arguments that by using these services, the users block the royalties of the websites that publish content for the users regularly.

Google has not provided any evidence, though the firm has a more general claim. The Extensions team claimed that the compelling content filtering capability of webrequest based APIs could potentially cause greater security and privacy concerns. The webrequest API is used by the adblockers to kill any unwanted content (read: ads) from the web page in real time. Google wants to shift the adblockers from the webrequest API to declarativeNetRequest API, which will inspect the page first and will only work under the 30,000 rules that Google specified in Manifest V3.

Since the whole adware fiasco started, Google’s extensions team has been trying to make people aware of the new extensions policy and API usage. Simeon Vincent, the developer advocate of Chrome extensions and Devlin Cronin, the member of Chrome extensions team, have already published two blog posts to make people aware of the whole scenario. The general conception is that Google Chrome is killing the adblockers to protect its revenue only.

They said, “There’s been a lot of confusion and misconception around both the motivations and implications of this change, including speculation that these changes were designed to prevent or weaken ad blockers, this is absolutely not the goal. In fact, this change is meant to give developers a way to create safer and more performant ad blockers.”

Conclusion

Many extensions developers are welcoming the security concerns posed by Google, but they are not thrilled by the changes that Google is trying to make. Moreover, many other browsers services, including Mozilla and Opera, have shown distress in Google’s claims and have maintained that they will retain the API’s in their respective browsers. For an ordinary user who does not use adblockers, all this means nothing their web experience stays the same irrespective of the browser.

For the rest of 20% of adults (age 18-24) users in the UK who use adblockers, the resulting experience will change drastically. The ads from many whistleblowing companies may stop appearing after the implementation of the new API, but the users will see higher ad content.


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