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European carriers could block internet ads for their own benefit

Matt Brian, @m4tt
05.15.15
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While advertising has become a necessary evil, some companies have become specialists in helping you rid yourself of it. If you live in Europe, you could soon find help from an unlikely ally, after a Financial Times report noted that some operators are ready to block ads from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo on your smartphone. According to the newspaper, one European carrier has already installed ad-blocking software in its data centers, with the intention of deploying it before the end of the year. Other providers have reportedly indicated that they may do the same and would ask customers to opt-in to the service.

Although you'd hope that carriers were acting in your best interests, that is (almost) never the case. The software is developed by an Israeli company called Shine, which just so happens to have received investment from Li Ka-shing, the world's richest man and owner of telecoms giant Hutchison Whampoa. As the biggest internet ad company, Google is the obvious target, and by stripping its ads from webpages and some apps (Facebook and Twitter's in-feed units would be unaffected), the unnamed carriers in question could then force the company to share some of its revenue with them.

It's a dangerous game, especially because it would damage the very notion of net neutrality, which ensures that all traffic is treated equally. Google is obviously against the idea, intimating to the FT that without ads, it could affect the development of its free apps and web services. However, Google, Amazon and Microsoft may have set a dangerous precedent when they paid to have some of their sites unblocked in Adblock Plus -- now they may face even greater pressure from companies with a lot more influence (and much bigger budgets).

[Image credit: Adam Fagen, Flickr]

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