The Watchers Don’t Want Watchers Watching Them, And It’s Hard To Blame Them

Last Updated on: 3rd November 2021, 11:15 am

We rely on ads to keep the site running, but I’ll never get angry about people using ad blockers. Hell, I’ve used them too. Paid for them, even. It’s not great for your favourite websites, but it’s a problem that the online advertising industry and even those websites to a degree have brought upon themselves. Scams, pop-ups, those creepy banners that follow you everywhere and always seem to know what you’ve been looking at, ads that try to sneak unwanted and malicious software onto your system, pages so clogged with ads that it’s all you can do to look at something with a screen reader because your focus keeps bouncing all over the damn place every time something loads,your computer being rendered nearly unusable until you can manage to get the browser closed for the same reason, the frightening amount of information a lot of companies collect about you…I could go on. All of those are absolutely valid reasons to install one, and if you do, that’s cool with me. Maybe think about putting us on your allow list if you like us, but whatever.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not ad blocking is for you, here’s something to consider. Agencies like the CIA and NSA, outfits that know a thing or 12 about aggressive and flagrant misuse of personal data, are apparently using the hell out of it for a lot of the same reasons the rest of us are.

Lots of people who use ad blockers say they do it to block malicious ads that can sometimes hack their devices or harvest sensitive information on them. It turns out, the NSA, CIA, and other agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) are also blocking ads potentially for the same sorts of reasons.
The IC, which also includes the parts of the FBI, DEA, and DHS, and various DoD elements, has deployed ad-blocking technology on a wide scale, according to a copy of a letter sent by Congress and shared with Motherboard.

The news highlights the continued risk from the online advertising ecosystem. Some hackers leverage how adverts are delivered to send target devices malware. Data brokers and potentially intelligence agencies can leverage the ecosystem to gather information on devices and by extension people, sometimes including their physical location. The IC taking steps to protect itself from the dangers of the advertising ecosystem shows just how malicious it can be.
“The IC has implemented network-based ad-blocking technologies and uses information from several layers, including Domain Name System information, to block unwanted and malicious advertising content,” the CIO recently told Wyden’s office, according to the letter.

Maybe it’s time I install one again. Anyone have any suggestions? As long as it’s easily manageable with a screen reader and plays well with Firefox, I’m all ears.

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