YouTube now sabotages ad-blocking apps that stream its vids

EFF lambastes latest 'lazy and deliberately malicious move'

YouTube says it will intentionally cripple the playback of its videos in third-party apps that block its ads.

A Monday post in YouTube's help forum notes netizens using applications that strip out adverts while streaming YouTube videos may encounter playback issues due to buffering or error messages indicating that the content is not available.

"We want to emphasize that our terms don’t allow third-party apps to turn off ads because that prevents the creator from being rewarded for viewership, and Ads on YouTube help support creators and let billions of people around the world use the streaming service," said a YouTube team member identified as Rob. "We also understand that some people prefer an entirely ad-free experience, which is why we offer YouTube Premium."

This crackdown is coming at the API level, as these outside apps use this interface to access the Google-owned giant's videos.

Third-party apps may only use the YouTube API to present content when they abide by the mega-corp's terms of service. These rules forbid developers using the API from "restricting ads from playing in your API service when they would otherwise play on YouTube or in an embedded video."

While YouTube did not cite specific apps believed to be violating its rules, there are a number of third-party apps that show YouTube videos without ads, such as FreeTube, a YouTube client for Windows, Mac, and Linux; LibreTube, a YouTube client for Android; and Piped, a YouTube web client.

Last year, YouTube acknowledged it was running scripts to detect ad-blocking extensions in web browsers, which ended up interfering with Firefox page loads and prompted a privacy complaint to Ireland's Data Protection Commission. And several months before that, the internet video titan experimented with popup notifications warning YouTube web visitors that ad-blocking software is not allowed.

A survey published last month by Ghostery, a maker of software that promotes privacy by blocking ads and tracking scripts, found that Google's efforts to crack down on ad blocking made about half of respondents (49 percent) more willing to use an ad blocker. According to the survey, the majority of Americans now use advert blockers, something recommended by the FBI when conducting internet searches.

"I think this move sucks, and is once again burdening users with an ongoing violation of privacy by demanding that they uninstall ad-blockers and other content blocking extensions," Daly Barnett, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Register of the latest crackdown.

"These tools are security tools as much as they are privacy ones. I have a hard time believing that YouTube would be unable to keep business afloat without the revenue generated by behavioral-tracking advertisements. It’s a lazy and deliberately malicious move on their part." ®

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