YouTube faces criminal complaint for ‘spying’ on users while detecting ad blocking: Report

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

Privacy consultant Alexander Hanff files a complaint against YouTube under Ireland’s computer abuse law, The Register reports reports. The National Police of Ireland reportedly acknowledged the consultant’s complaint and sought more information. According to Hanff, the video streaming service’s browser interrogation system – tracking scripts designed to identify ad blockers in use on a browser – amounts to espionage against EU citizens.

Last month, YouTube began to collapse 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 allowed on the service, the company has 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 implemented for one purpose — to monitor his behavior (whether ads were allowed to load in his browser) without his knowledge or permission – and considered it spyware.

According to the report, the consultant chose to file a criminal complaint against the search giant due to the regulators’ dismal record in enforcing the Electronic Privacy and Communications Directive (or e-Data Protection Directive), which came into effect 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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