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Yahoo! Advertising The Internet Your Rights Online

Yahoo Denies Ad-blocking Users Access To Email (washingtonpost.com) 328

JoeyRox writes: Yahoo is running an A/B test that blocks access to Yahoo email if the site detects that the user is running an Ad Blocker. Yahoo says that this a trial rather than a new policy, effecting only a "small number" of users. Those lucky users are greeted with a message that reads "Please disable Ad Blocker to continue using Yahoo Mail." Regarding the legality of the move, "Yahoo is well within its rights to do so," said Ansel Halliburton an attorney at Kronenberger Rosenfeld who specializes in Internet law.
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Yahoo Denies Ad-blocking Users Access To Email

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  • by bazmail ( 764941 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:33AM (#50992881)
    Yahoo! think its a player. Good for you Yahoo!.
    • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:48AM (#50992971) Journal

      Yahoo provides email services for quite a number of big ISPs. Certainly, the email services for BT (which is still, I think, the UK's largest ISP) are provided by Yahoo and just given a light BT-specific reskinning.

      So there might be quite a lot more people out there using Yahoo mail accounts than you would suspect. Some of them probably don't realise it themselves.

      • by gmack ( 197796 )

        I would would be very annoyed with my internet provider if they put ads on a service I was paying for. You can charge me money, or you can put ads on it. not both.

        • I actually still have one of the BT/yahoo email accounts I mentioned in my GP post (even though BT haven't been my ISP for a decade now, I pay a small fee to keep the email account because of the faff associated with changing all the accounts linked to it). I can confirm that it does indeed have advertising if you aren't running an adblocker, though for the time being at least, it raises no objections to me using Adblock Plus when I log in.

          There was a fair old bit of fuss some years back, when BT migrated i

    • Did they forget this alreay?
      http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

      Or maybe they had an epiphany?
      CEO: "What do you mean some of our users didn't get infected?"
      • I figure I've got about a decade of work product on my computer. If my machine gets infected and that gets stolen, is Yahoo! willing to pay me... oh, let's see... 10 years, that's 520 weeks at 40hr/wk (being generous, most weeks are closer to 60 with some topping 80+), at my high-volume billable rate of $50/hr... 520 * 40 * 50 = $1.04 million? Oh, plus a day's work that will be lost to nuke-and-pave, another day to configure all the software I reinstalled the day prior, and another day to restore my backups
    • It doesn't matter if Yahoo is or isn't a big player. They aren't the only player looking for methods to combat ad-blocking, and moves like this will be made by others in time. Even if this specific approach hasn't been thought of by anyone else, the press is sharing the concept with the world more and more with each new article.

      • TV channels have been doing it for a while... You can watch our primetime content the day after it airs but you have to sit through commercials or some offer a subscription. I don't have a problem with this so long as the commercials are tasteful and not drive-by adware/malware type crap.

    • Yeah, I think the tech community is mostly all in agreement with everyone else when they say "Wait...Yahoo is still around...and has email?"

    • And this is why we don't put exclamation-marks the name of a company or product. It just looks silly.

    • Yahoo Mail is one of their few products that large numbers of people still use. Remember, at one point it was the smart alternative to Hotmail.

  • To do list (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:34AM (#50992887)

    1) Disable AdBlock
    2) Login
    3) Set forwarding to other email account / Send all mails to that address
    4) Logout
    5) Enable AdBlock

    Sorry, no profit, but the end result will be satisfactory.

    • What I'd like is ad-capper instead of an ad-blocker. I'm very happy to get some ads. But if the ad-content is more than 50% of the bandwidth to load the page then it's time to block the ad's above that limit. A lot below that then it won't change the page load time.

    • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

      Alternatively, you can just use AdBlock to block their AdBlock blocking.

      According to this post [adblockplus.org], you can avoid their blocking by adding this custom filter:

      @@||yahoo.com$elemhide

      I can't test it since they aren't blocking my ancient Yahoo mail account, but unless they're doing some heavy server-side detection, a combination of custom AdBlock filters and/or a NoScript surrogate script should take care of things. And it's just a matter of time before the former gets added to a list like Easylist's AdBlock Warni [adblockplus.org]

      • Alternatively, you can just use AdBlock to block their AdBlock blocking.

        According to this post [adblockplus.org], you can avoid their blocking by adding this custom filter:

        @@||yahoo.com$elemhide

        I can't test it since they aren't blocking my ancient Yahoo mail account, but unless they're doing some heavy server-side detection, a combination of custom AdBlock filters and/or a NoScript surrogate script should take care of things. And it's just a matter of time before the former gets added to a list like Easylist's AdBlock Warning Removal [adblockplus.org] list.

        Yeah I have some greasemonky scripts running that block ad-block-blockers I think if it gets more meta than that I go the Stallman way and just use wget for everything and rip out the JavaScript.

    • 1) Disable AdBlock
      2) Login
      3) Set forwarding to other email account / Send all mails to that address
      4) Logout
      5) Enable AdBlock

      Sorry, no profit, but the end result will be satisfactory.

      if you don't login to your account every so many days they will deactivate your email account or so I am told

    • You forgot step 2a) Get infected by malware-laden Yahoo! ad.
  • Legality? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@nospAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:37AM (#50992899)

    Why would there be any question about the legality of this? Yahoo! doesn't have to allow you access to its service, and its now setting requirements to do so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Firstly, not all versions of Yahoo e-mail are free. (although they might be slowly shedding their paid offerings...)

      Secondly, a dismissive, "Why would there be any question about legality?" is something one only hears from people with no legal experience. The law isn't a codification of what you think the rules should be, and so many people have met their commercial demise by starting with the assumption that something is "surely" ok to do.

      Thridly, not every country subscribes to the neoliberal mindset, tha

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        While you do make good points under general circumstances, can you identify ANY law in ANY country in the world where Yahoo wouldn't be within it's right to do what it did?

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        Actually, people quite regularly ask /. for legal advice from what I've seen here over the years. And IMO, why not? It's not like anyone with any sense wouldn't consult a real attorney first if they were really going to take something to court. But I figure they're just putting out "feelers". Some people on here probably are lawyers by profession and others probably went through legal battles already over similar issues. It's useful to get a rough idea of it you have a case worth making the effort to f

        • I just like it to see all the IANAL disclaimers. No fucking shit, there's me thinking a rambling paragraph by an Anonymous Paranoiac on the internet is as valuable as a practicing lawyer's five hundred an hour advice.
    • Re: Legality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @09:06AM (#50993075) Homepage Journal

      It's simple misdirection - people are asking, "is Yahoo being a dick?" and Yahoo is answering, "it's perfectly legal." Which has nothing to do with the question but many people will fall for it because they [somehow, still, inexplicably, despite all evidence to the contrary] still equate legality with ethics.

      n.b. It may be the users who are being the dicks, wanting something for nothing (#include malvertising.h), but that's not the question here.

      • Ethics? I'm no fan of ads, but I'd say that in this case the people who want to continue using the service that Yahoo! has been providing them while going out of their way to prevent the sole mechanism through which the provider is compensated for providing that service are the ones with the ethical problem here. They were offered a deal (email in exchange for ad views) and are now reneging on their side of the deal, not even offering to move to a paid account to remove the ads.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      Agreed, I don't see a legal issue with this, they have the right to serve what they want from their servers assuming it isn't outright malware.

      Similarly though, users have every right to use countermeasures to bypass this because they also have the right to do what they want in terms of manipulating any content served to them for display. It's one of the key design features of web standards dating back to even the earliest versions of HTML - the idea that a user agent can process data in a manner that best

      • In a world where you agree to see advertising for a service instead of paying a subscription the service provider can stop providing ad based service if they are no longer able to make money on it.

        There is still more to it than that they also have to make sure they are providing a quality service and the advertising is clean of malware, etc... otherwise they will have a bad reputation and people will leave both the paid and ad based service.

  • Go back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:37AM (#50992901)

    This is going to go over like a lead balloon. I know if I was greeted with that on a site I use, I would then start the process of going elsewhere.

    They would do far better to just shift to some other way to display the ads using local servers instead of ad networks, if they really find all of this necessary. Oh, and in the process, make sure the ads are small, load quickly, don't pop up or under or on a time delay, have no animation and no sound, and no mouse over effects. Inotherwords, go back to the way things were before people found it necessary to block ads.

    • by Dredd13 ( 14750 )

      And since you:

      [a] cost them resources, and
      [b] deny them revenue

      They:

      [c] are actively trying to *encourage* you to go elsewhere and be a drain on someone else's resources.

    • I would be willing to flag Yahoo as an exception to ad blocking IF the ads were tolerable—basically what you said, no animation, sound, pop-under/over, mouseover, etc. And the percent of real estate taken by the ads needs to be reasonable. I'm not anti-ad, just anti-obnoxious ad ("obnoxious" being in the eye of the beholder, yes). But as of reading this piece of news, I'm already considering what impacts I'll see if/when I abandon Yahoo.

    • my first thought is that this is evidence of a finance department coup meant to oust an ineffective marketing department.

      Bad idea that shows no understanding of the marketplace in which they operate. I feel confident that there were better ways that they could have chosen to wind down a non-profitable service that would have had less of a negative impact on their overall corporate reputation.

  • So how far down does a site get into a browser to understand what a browser is doing on another users computer and that users own OS?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It can't. We now start to develop blockers that accept the connection to the ad site, slurp the data, run the JavaCrap that comes with it in a different sandbox with CoW access to the page sandbox, in case the ad wants to cross-check something, and show a blank frame where the ad should show. Arms race continues, problem solved for now.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        Eventually they'll require root access to your computer.

  • And no problem getting in at all, with no-script, ABP etc enabled.. then again it's possibly for IP's that are US centric.
  • No Script. That is all.
    • This will only work if the site has a non-JavaScript version. Most sites that have some sort of anti-adblocking mechanism in place require Javascript to be functional. Without Javascript you get served a page that asks you to enable Javascript or disable adblocking.
    • I'd have agreed with you a few years ago. Yes, you can stop nearly all web-based attacks by blocking scripting, but you do so at the expense of blocking nearly all web functionality. These days, too much of the web is just utterly broken without scripting enabled. I was tired of constantly fiddling with it, trying to find the content delivery network to allow so the site would actually work.

      I recently replace noscript with ublock-origin. Scripting is no longer the attack vector of choice... just an enab

  • Modify ad bockers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Allsup ( 987 ) <<oc.puslla> <ta> <esuoh.anni.rotcod>> on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:44AM (#50992945) Homepage Journal

    A simple hack for ad blockers, though this will require a few hacks to browsers, is to display ads with 0% opacity, and absolute position them in a place that can't be seen. With a few hacks to the browser, what you want to do is to have the rendering engine render everything as usual off screen, and then mirror the elements into a second page with the ads rendered invisible, such that javascript running on the page will see the off-screen page, possibly with simulated mouse and keyboard activity based upon what the actual user is doing (filter out keystrokes other than cursor keys). But sites powered by advertising need to learn that they must adopt conventions that keep advertising reasonable and reasonably unintrusive. If they can't make ends meet doing that, get off the web.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      display ads with 0% opacity

      But then you burn 10 MB of your 5 GB/mo data allowance displaying a video ad on a page whose body is otherwise 50 kB.

    • You're presuming that some of us block ads because we simply don't like seeing them displayed. I block ads because they're dangerous. I never bothered with ad blocking before malvertising became more prevalent.

    • That bypasses three of the great things about adblockers:

      1. Malware will now get through.
      2. Page loading times will go back to being abysmal.
      3. Datausage will go up.

  • so that just maybe people will wake up to the world we live in. We've given over most of our rights and just expect that the corporations are some benign entity that just can't wait to do something else for us. A few more blatant slaps across the face would do people good I say.

    Can we get the cell phone companies in on this too please? Maybe the banks too?

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Great, so I'll expect a consumers bill of rights to pop up saying that any company forthwith that knowingly or unknowingly serves ads which infect a machine with form of malware/keylogger/botnet/ransomware/etc are responsible for damages, removal, and restoration of said individuals software/documents/etc, plus a min. $500 fine payable to said person for time lost.

  • by DevilM ( 191311 ) <devilm@noSpAm.devilm.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:51AM (#50992993) Homepage

    Soon the ad blockers are going to be simulating that the user saw the ad without actually showing it.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes was thinking that, some form of VM that projects back what every site needs to see down to an OS level but then transforms the browser for the user.
      A site would see the perfect browser, OS, no blocking, everything displayed. The user sees the site as selected in the settings.
    • One of them used to; I can't remember if it was AdBlock or NoScript, but one of them had a "load ads but don't display" mode instead of the usual "deny ads completely" mode.

      It was for sites that could detect whether or not the ad components were accepted for download by your machine - which I remember a few sites did early on, even before this whole war got rolling. Not many but enough did, they felt that option was necessary, and I remember having to turn it on (off?) because at least one of the sites I v

    • So how are you "going to be simulating" the download of a video advertisement without actually billing the user's data plan?

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:53AM (#50993007)
    Marissa Mayer was an executive at Google. She went to Yahoo to get all their remaining users to move to gmail (why were they still using yahoo is an interesting question that's not in the scope of this post). Well done Marissa, we hope your bonus will be significant when you'll be back to Google.
    • Yahoo to get all their remaining users to move to gmail (why were they still using yahoo is an interesting question that's not in the scope of this post).

      I have a GMail account, but my Yahoo address is still my primary one. Partly because, well, it always has been. But also, why switch, really? For one, I like my email like a grizzled veteran of the Vietnam War likes his car radio: just regular, dammit.

      But also, Google and Yahoo are both frankly villainous companies hell-bent on using their privileged knowledge of your internet activities to track your every move. And Google is way, way better at it. Way. So I'd prefer not to give them any more advan

  • A-ffecting. Jeez. (Score:3, Informative)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:57AM (#50993023) Homepage

    effecting only a "small number" of users

    You need to lern some properly English.

  • Block my mail and I'll just stop going to Yahoo altogether. I have Thunderbird.
  • It will help get those people who refuse to move off yahoo. They are about on par with people still using aol addresses.

  • I have no choice in the matter, so I will be unable to get my yahoo email. The last reason I had for using yahoo just went away (I've had a yahoo email account for a *very* long time).

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @09:27AM (#50993209) Homepage

    I'm stuck with a Yahoo email because of my ISP. I tolerate it, but I'm not overly invested in it.

    I haven't seen the blocking ... if they do that to me I'll ignore them.

    But what I have seen is them adding to the number of ad-sites embedded in my email by quite a lot lately -- there's now almost 20 external domains they pull in which I'm blocking in just my email. I understand Yahoo is increasingly desperate to pretend they are relevant and to bring in revenue, but it's not my damned problem. I didn't choose to use Yahoo, my ISP made them my email because they didn't want to provide it themselves.

    So, Yahoo is something I use at my sufferance ... and my patience with them is growing thin.

    They're not that good, I don't use them for anything but that specific email that I'm supposed to keep for my ISP. They keep adding ad sites which I keep blocking. If they block me because of that ... well, they'll cease to exist to me, really.

    Yahoo is a company which really only lives on its own inertia of people who already have Yahoo accounts. Their painful decline into oblivion means they're being bigger assholes in trying to keep revenue.

    And when that backfires on them, they might just discover how irrelevant they've become.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      I'm stuck with a Yahoo email because of my ISP.

      I find that very hard to believe. Is your ISP blocking all other SMTP and IMAP traffic? Blocking gmail and hotmail (or whatever MS calls it now)?

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Is your ISP blocking all other SMTP and IMAP traffic?

        No, but I imagine that some ISPs no longer offer their own SMTP or IMAP server, instead relying on Yahoo or someone else like that. It started with Usenet, and now it may have spread to email.

    • You say that your email was chosen by your ISP. why?
      My ISP also gave me an email address but I never used it.
      The email address is not something that is linked to your internet access.
      You are free to use whatever email provider you like.

    • I hope this gets a +5 Informative mod since you are the only guy in history to use your ISP-provided email address and, therefore, uniquely qualified to comment on this situation!
  • "Affecting only a 'small number' of users", not "effecting."

  • I don't see how anyone could possibly think of this as not being something they can legally do. Nobody is forced to use yahoo mail, if they don't like how the site is set up they are free to go use a different free email service instead.
  • Yahoo openly hostile toward security conscious users.
  • Wait...people actually still use web-based email? I thought everyone got their messages on their smartphones these days. I almost never use the web interface except for those rare and few occasions where I need to send a file from my computer specifically. And even then I'm apt to just punt it to Dropbox and send it from my phone anyway...
  • Everyone complains about intrusive and malware infested advertisement. But I see that as an opportunity.

    There is a lot of potential money to be made if a company were started that would screen the advertisements to not be intrusive or full of malware before providing them. They could refuse to serve flash based ads. They could be mobile aware to send only lower bandwidth ads to mobile devices. They could reject ads that push themselves in front of the page's contents. Sure, the extra work would cost mo

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