Potentially Undefeatable Ad blocker Looks At Content, Not Code

An ad blocker that uses computer vision appears to be the most powerful ever devised and can evade all known anti ad blockers.


Few moths ago, Facebook had a war with an ad blocker. It made sense for Facebook for taking a stronger stance against ad blockers since its business is mostly dependent on ad revenue. This is the method developed by Princeton and Stanford researchers that being implemented into a widely available blocker.

Existing available ad blockers search for a webpage’s source code for signs that they are ads. But such kind of blockers is easily disguised by the anti ad-blocking sites. Computer scientist Arvind Narayanan and his colleagues unveiled a tool called Perceptual Ad Blocker that detects ads in the same way as humans. The tool detects ads by looking at things like container sizes, icon graphics and words like Sponsored.

This Perceptual Ad Blocker ignores hidden HTML markup and looks instead at the actual content. A proof of concept is now available for Chrome but is not fully functional.

Narayanan said, “The Previous extension was already supported several thousand users. But this new tool extends that ability to the rest of the Internet, targeting AdChoice displays.”

He noted, “Unlike the behavior of malware, the behavior of both publishers/advertisers and ad-blocking tools already is, and will continue to be, shaped by regulations. A favorable legal climate and the existence of browsers friendly toward ad-blocking extensions are two key factors that may tip the scales toward users.”

“We don’t claim to have created an undefeatable ad blocker, but we identify an evolving combination of technical and legal factors that will determine the “end game” of the arms race. Out of the 50 known anti-ad-blocking sites we tested, the perceptual ad blocker was able to highlight ads on all of them without being detected.”

Traditional ad blockers fail to block native ads that look like normal content. At the other hand, Perceptual ad-blocking ignores those codes and those lists.

Researchers wrote, “As long as the disclosure standards are unambiguous and adhered to, a perceptual ad blocker will have a 100 percent recall at identifying ads governed by that standard. Because new disclosure standards generally have to go through a legal vetting and are required, they are less likely to change than the code used to deliver the ads.”


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