Saturday 24 August 2019

Edward Snowden urges internet users to install ad blockers to boost online privacy

Edward Snowden (Photo: Twitter/Edward Snowden)
Edward Snowden (Photo: Twitter/Edward Snowden)
Edward Snowden on a video feed broadcast from Moscow at an event sponsored by ACLU Hawaii in Honolulu. (AP)
Edward Snowden

Sarah-Jane Murphy

Edward Snowden has strongly criticised online ads, and advised Internet users to employ an ad blocker to protect their privacy online.

"Everybody should be running adblock software, if only from a safety perspective.

"We’ve seen internet providers inserting their own ads into your plaintext http connections.

"As long as service providers are serving ads with active content that require the use of Javascript to display or that have some kind of active content like Flash embedded in it, you should be actively trying to block these.

"Because if the service provider is not working to protect the sanctity of the relationship between reader and publisher, you have not just a right but a duty to take every effort to protect yourself in response," he told online publication The Intercept.

Read More: Snowden revelations inspired Dublin-based startup to launch new Invizbox wi-fi security device

A "malvertising" attack occurs when an ad network unknowingly hosts harmful files which are disguised as ads.

These types of attack have increased over the last few months, with one making the headlines when it infected Yahoo's website.

Most news sites employ dozens of trackers and cookies that gather information about personal web browsing habits which can be used for advertising purposes.

Read More: Europe has failed in duty to protect citizens over web privacy threat

Documents leaked by Snowden showed that the National Security Agency has collected information directly from the data centers of Google and Yahoo by tapping links between the companies' servers.

Such security concerns have contributed to the growing popularity of ad blockers recently.

Publishers are concerned as they rely on advertising for their livelihood, and say that if users wish to avail of free content they have to put up with pop up ads.

However those in favour of ad blockers argue that Internet users shouldn't be forced to view ads that drain excessive amounts of their data usage and may even serve as a conduit for malware.

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