Adblock Plus: Prosecutor’s Office examines offices and private apartments

The public prosecutor’s office examined the business premises and private apartments of Eyeo GmbH in Cologne and Berlin, thereby ensuring notebooks and smartphones.

Adblock Plus

The operator of the popular advertising block “Adblock Plus” is to be suspected to be involved in commercial copyright infringements. In an earlier court proceeding, the management would have made “not credible” statements with an affidavit.

Police units commissioned by the public prosecutor’s office investigated business premises at Eyeo GmbH in Cologne and Berlin last Thursday. Three private apartments were also targeted. According to the information so far, the provider of the popular advertising block “Adblock Plus” is suspected of being involved in commercial copyright infringements. In this context, the company could have made false statements before the Hamburg regional court and led to the misrepresentation.

In June 2013, a number of Mobile Geeks authors had revealed that AdblockPlus and the young Eyeo GmbH were still hiding investors from the advertising industry. The software blocks advertisements on any internet site through a series of automatically updated filter lists and, in turn, releases other advertisements against high fees. The resulting role of a “gatekeeper” is not only problematic in terms of competition law.

Adblock Plus had always been responsible for blocking lists on its own servers. According to the CEO, Till Faida, it is a “community” that the company does not have any influence on it. Further research revealed that Faida used a series of camouflaging names to advertise Adblock Plus on foreign websites in the form of supposedly independent articles.

The supposedly huge “community” of volunteers proved to be a group. At least one long-time employee of the company is suspected of being responsible for the blocking lists, allegedly made by “volunteers”.

With an affidavit, the Managing Director of Eyeo GmbH stated that these employees should be allowed to carry out private activities during their flexibly designed working hours, so the company had no influence whatsoever.

This, however, judged the judges as a “mere assertion of the protection”, the affidavit of the management was “not credible”.

With a similarly succinct explanation, Adblock Plus had already reacted to our research in November 2015. At that time, we had discovered that the advertising blocker unlocked via a general key detour to porn websites, betting top 10  and scam providers, but – according to Adblock Plus – formally considered “no advertising”. Even then, Faida was shown “optimistic that the authors of the blocking lists included in Adblock Plus will block such forwarding in the future.”

In the course of the year 2015, various larger and smaller Internet sites began with the blocking of advertising blocks. Users who use Adblock Plus are given a hint and have been given the option to temporarily disable the browser add-on or to subscribe to the site.

The allegedly independent “community” published codes, with which this blockbuster blockade blocked, since then both sides supply a cat-and-mouse game. The Hamburg District Court prohibited the distribution of these codes to Eyeo GmbH and others because this would undermine an access protection that would satisfy the legal requirements.

Several large and small websites had complained in the past years over and over again that the filter lists not only block advertising ads. While (see above) obscure referrals “no one noticed” for years, there were early indications that targeted requests to deactivate the advertising block were also suppressed, which was regarded by many as “technical censorship”. In addition, various entries have led to the inability to function of commodity markets in online shops or to the suppression of editorial content.

The search of the public prosecutor’s office and the seizure of notebooks and other technical devices could now lead to a liability (§831 BGB) of Cologne Eyeo GmbH in these and comparable cases.

This, in turn, could lead to the fact that the filter lists currently being used on tens of millions of computers and smartphones would have to be massively reworked or taken offline, which in turn would involve a number of other ad blockers. Piquant: Eyeo GmbH has in the past legally tried against the operators of other Adblocker, further competitors were taken over or convinced by a “co-operation”.

According to a unanimous opinion, it is up to each user to decide whether and on which websites he uses an advertising blocker. The previous court proceedings of various media are therefore directed not against private persons, but against enterprises as operators of this Adblocker.

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