I was on CNN.com and I saw this little Facebook thingy:
I expected that to be blocked by “Ad Block Plus” because I subscribe to the “EasyPrivacy” list. I started Firebug to see that the iframe was there and that is was loaded from the Facebook website:
In the “blockable items” I verified that this widget was not blocked:
This was unexpected to me, so I began to dig a little deeper in the workings of “Ad Block Plus”.
Google AdSense not blocked on nu.nl
On the Dutch news website (nu.nl) I saw that Google was whitelisted (shown green). I quickly found the filter source by hovering the rule, it said “Allow non-intrusive advertising”:
I was not aware of me allowing any tracking, especially not from Google. The main reason I have this plugin installed is to keep Google away. So, as you can understand I was not happy. How come “Ad Block Plus” had suddenly (from July 2013 according to dottech.org) decided some advertisers were better than others? Also why did “EasyPrivacy” not protect me against Facebook?
After some searching I found that this filter (that was enabled during the 2.0 update of the plugin) could be triggered with an obscure checkbox:
This “acceptable ads feature” (as they call it themselves) is enabled by default as you can read in the “acceptable-ads” FAQ. Also, they are admitting that they are being paid:
…we are being paid by some larger properties that serve non-intrusive advertisements… – source
So what do you think? Has “Ad Block Plus” been paid by Google to unblock them? And why does the “EasyPrivacy” subscription not cover Facebook? Have they also been paid for that? (edit: The “Fanboy” subscriptions do block Facebook)
Ghostery to the rescue
I therefore decided to install Ghostery. This is another tool that promises to block tracking efforts. However, you must make sure that you configure it correctly:
Options – General – Sharing options – Disable GhostRank
Options – General – Blocking Options – Trackers – Select all
Options – General – Blocking Options – Cookies – Select all
Options – Advanced - Performance Options – Select all
Ghostery does not make a secret of their business model:
…it’s is made by an advertising company called Evidon … it is a Web tracking blocker that actually helps the ad industry – source
And remember, whenever you are not paying for a service, you are the product. So you better understand the business model behind these services. The business models of the “Ad Block Plus” and “Ghostery” plugins are (now) clear to me. This does NOT mean I endorse the use of these plugins. There are many arguments to use and also many to not use these plugins. Please keep a critical mind and decide for yourself!