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Is Ad Blocking Ethical?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Security Help

We’ve been talking a lot lately about ad-blocking apps. A couple of weeks ago we told you how the most popular app in the Apple App Store, an ad-blocker called Peace was pulled by its developer over concerns that it would deprive fellow developers from receiving the income they depend on from advertiser-supported free apps.


I also told you how two major makers of ad-blocking add-ons were now going to allow some ads that they deemed acceptable to get through.


But that raises a larger question. Is it ethical to block ads on advertiser-supported sites or in ad-supported apps? I’m not talking about unsolicited spam jamming your inbox or telemarketers calling your house. After all, the telemarketers aren’t subsidizing your phone bill.

But if you take a free ad-supported app as opposed to buying a paid version, you’re agreeing to view the advertising in exchange for free use of the app. Is skipping those ads a violation of the agreement? Are you cheating the developer out of income he or she deserves?

The vast majority of web-sites are supported by advertising. If you have those ads covered up, are you not paying up what you promised the site by logging on? For example, take a look at the Food Network site. When I log on, I see a banner ad at the top, plus another ad to the right.


There are also links to external sites and to purchase products sold by the chefs featured on the site.


Now let’s check out another food site, Cook’s Country. There are no external ads. The only thing close to an ad here is the opportunity to upgrade my membership to site.


But this nearly ad-free experience costs me $40 a year. If you don’t have a membership, you can’t get past the home page or read any of the articles.

Food Network accepts my viewing of their ads and links as payment. (And also the ads I view on the television when I watch their programs).  Is hiding those ads cheating Food Network? How many of you would be willing to pay for website subscriptions if it meant no ads? How much would you pay?

You may have noticed that when you watch ad-sponsored programs on-demand or on-line that you can’t skip over the ads. If you try to skip ahead, many of them will just play the ads back to back. Dish Network has been sued for a commercial-skipping feature in its DVRs.


Most television programming is subsidized by ads, if you don’t watch the ads, are you breaking an agreement with the program providers? And if you would prefer ad-free content, how much are you willing to pay for it?

Netflix recently announced it was raising its rates in order to fund more ad-free original programming.  They know what networks have known for a long time, content isn’t cheap and you have to be willing to pay to create it. That money has to come from somewhere.

I have some questions for you, Is it cheating to block ads? What would you be willing to pay for website subscriptions to skip ads all together? How much would you pay for completely ad-free TV and  apps?

Let us know in the comments.

~ Cynthia


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19 Responses to “Is Ad Blocking Ethical?”

  1. Bob Price says:

    I’m only referring to computer ads and I allowed them for many years. As a businessman, I know about the important role of advertising and the wonderful things they bring to the public.

    That said, today’s ads have become an overwhelming annoyance. I click one tab and countless ads appear, okay, but also videos and sound bites. Clicking another tab produces the same thing, and before long, there’s three or four sounds blaring at me. Worse, some lie dormant and suddenly begin playing minutes later.

    But the absolute worse are the click-bait-ads that go on and on and on.

    I no longer feel guilty blocking them.

  2. rodzilla says:

    I realize a lot of sites generate revenue to run the site, and I don’t mind if there is a banner ad, or an unobtrusive one in the margins. But I detest pop up ads, especially the ones which I can’t close, as well as sites that have three or four ads which seem placed on purpose to block me from reading the site I had opened. It also annoys me when the page does not fully load until all of the ads have loaded completely. Why can I not scroll down until the ads are completed? For these reasons I have installed an ad blocking program, and my browsing experience has become much more pleasant.

  3. Jadesqr says:

    Where to begin? At the beginning the internet was an extension of the US Government and the Universities in direct collaboration then it became apparent it was becoming an extension of the television networks and thusly it had to become an advertising based media; What a mistake!

    On television, if you didn’t like the programming, just change channels. On the internet it was a matter of information not entertainment and once logged into a website it became a ‘gotcha’ and you had to endure whatever bull ‘attached’ until you toggled down to what you were after.

    We all made the mistake of going along with the ‘bull’ because it was to easy to just toggle past what you didn’t need. We were so used to waiting ‘for-ever’ for a website to load it was not an issue.

    Now, there is no way to get past the junk because all the ‘bells and whistles’ built into these ads, sucks the life out of processor ‘timing’ and wrecks the experience.

    If we had ‘thumbs up-thumbs down’ on each ad the advertisers might then get the point. If more users would complain to the individual websites, it might help but the system is evolving into a pay-per-view “Premium” membership type ‘programming’, sound familiar. So who pays in the end?

  4. Judy says:

    Occasional “side ads” w/o sound, unless you click to hear it;
    are O.K., unless they intrude on what I am interested in.
    Those that are placed “in the middle” of what I am reading, iriks me.
    Sometimes I think if it keeps getting worse, I will quit internet and save my money.

    • Judy (also) says:

      My sentiments exactly.Those in the middle of what you are reading or the ones that move along with what you are reading, are the reason people get into things that may be a problem and they end up with viruses. I don’t care what or how many are on the sides, as long as they aren’t interfering with what I am interested in.

  5. Dzhonz says:

    I suffer no compunction in ridding my browser of the myriad of ads that endlessly pop up or videos that suddenly play and ruin my browsing experience. Ad blockers work to some degree, but the ad developers catch up and fool the ad blocker. It’s a nasty game, and I see obtrusive ads as criminal, and I don’t give a damn whether or not it is a matter of economic survival on the part of the host site. If they need this kind of crap revenue, they don not need to survive.

    What do I do? Simple. I regularly visit a number of sites that are infested with crap ads. Some of these sites work better than others in certain browsers. I keep five browsers on the ready. But the best way of winning the game that I have found is to use the “Enter Reader view” under the “View menu” in Firefox. As soon as the site begins to load enough that I can see the content for which I am there to see—and before the popups begin their nefarious infestation, I stop the site from loading further by clicking the “X” on the navigation bar and then head for the View menu. Works beautifully. It takes minimal practice to get it right.

    There is also a program called “Clearly” that does essentially the same thing. I read about it on this site, but I am accustomed to using the Reader View feature already built into my Firefox browser.

  6. Donald says:

    I have used a free custom HOSTS file in my computer for many years, which automatically blocks much (but not all) unwanted content including hijackers and other malware. It also blocks banners and certain ads. If an outfit gets on their blacklist, it won’t load.

  7. David says:

    Whenever a persons right to choose is taken away (as with internet advertising) people are going to have serious issues with it. Who wants to see the same advertisement over and over again anyway? Nobody I know…Advertisements are annoying and intrusive and infringe upon my right to read or watch on the internet without interruption…People already pay for internet service. Now companies want us to pay not to be annoyed…Please don’t try to justify these intrusions with that’s how they make their money when most people know they make thousands if not millions off these advertisements. Your insulting the publics intelligence.

    • cynthia says:

      To be fair David, what you pay for Internet service in no way goes toward the people hosting the web site or developing the app. It’s not like cable or satellite, where a portion of what you pay for that service is distributed among those providing the content. Websites don’t get a cut of your Internet bill. Though in the future, who knows? Perhaps the Internet will become like cable where popular sites demand a chunk from the Internet service providers that access them and they, in turn, pass the cost on to you.

  8. Virgil Quattrocchi says:

    Related to this problem, I inquired in an earlier posting you had on this subject – but I received no answer. I wrote as follows: I have AdBloc on my computer – have had it – and am happy with it. Now, I keep getting notice that an Update is available – and it gives me the option to “”Install Now”. I keep rejecting the update because I fear I will be opening the door to ads. Comment???

  9. JJM says:

    For the same reason I hardly ever answer my home phone, if I know I am to be hassled with ADS, I will UNSUBCRIBE to dozens of websites. If I want to purchase something, I will search it out. If you push your product annoyingly at me, you will be BLACKLISTED.

  10. JJSr says:

    Like everyone has said, I don’t feel guilty because the screen has become overwhelming with sounds and huge space used for ALL the ads. When it was just one or 2 ads per site it was tolerable, but when 75% of the page is ads I can’t see to read what I have came to the site for. I use Ghostery in FireFox and Safari and it works pretty well, but sometimes (only on a few sites) you have to figure out what analytics and widgets have to be unblocked to make the website function properly. Just tinker with it a bit and you will figure it out. If I had to be this intrusive in folks browsing experience I would not be able to sleep at night. Browsing is supposed to be a calm, pleasant and sometime reward time to enjoy yourself. When you’re always trying to keep the ad wars from your computer the calm, pleasant and rewarding time is not there. They are cheating all those that are trying to enjoy themselves.

    When I record my TV shows I skip right through the commercials. Is this any different? I intentionally record shows rather than watch them live just so I can watch a 1 hour show in @ 40 minutes (give or take)and not have to watch those annoying repeating commercials over & over again.

    It’s kinda like your neighbors barking dog. Occasional barking is very tolerable, but continual barking will drive you nuts. Shut that dog up!!! Stop all the stinkin ads!!!!!!!

  11. JJSr says:

    Not to mention my iPad, I have to scroll sooooo much to view an article because the ads take up most of the screen. And when you try to click the “X” to close the banner or ad and it does not work! UUUUUGGGGGG!!!!!!

  12. Marian says:

    I don’t mind the adverts too much, but so many seem to be videos with sound. I can turn off the sound (mostly!) but the videos still take up a lot of bandwidth which I would rather use for something I find more interesting! (I get a certain bandwidth allowance per month from my ISP. If I go over that it costs me more which I can’t afford, so I resent adverts I don’t want to see using up so much :/ )

  13. Shanker says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I see both the developers/site owners and the viewers have valid needs. Nowadays, even TV Channels are going much beyond limits.It’s just not workable if anyone side takes the extreme position.

    The Ads need to be rationalized to avoid irritating the viewers!

  14. Lamar says:

    It is easy enough to see the need for revenue for sponsoring sites in a responsible manner, and I don’t mind that. But as some commenters have noted many ads are overly intrusive and their designers should be punished for forcing themselves on the Internet using public who have little or no control.

    I use AdBlock + and Ghostery which have solved my problem. My proposal is for the ISP’s to pay a reasonable fee for advertising which has been vetted by the ad industry and found to be in good taste, then the fee passed on to the end users. Not a good solution but the best that comes to mind. Maybe the FCC, the BBB and Consumer reports might have some comments to add.

  15. terry says:

    I only have a problem with certain types of ads — those that flash. These ads are terrible for those of us who have seizures that are set off by flashing anything. I don’t like to use ad blockers, but if companies insist on “flashing me”, I must insist on using an ad blocker. The ads that cover a page or part of the writing are bad, too, but I can deal with those.

  16. Les Arthur says:

    Advertisers only make money if I buy what they are advertising. Therefore, since I make it a policy NOT to buy from internet (or to some extent TV) advertisers, I am not depriving web sites’ advertisers of anything by blocking their ads. That is, they are not gaining anything by having it appear on my monitor – they only gain if I buy the product and I won’t. So many ads, both on TV and on web sites, are so objectionable that I actually become more determined to never buy their product BECAUSE of their ad!

  17. David Johnson says:

    No do not see this as being unethical There are plenty of ads on the side of website pages. I would have to say that ads poping up is unethical. It’s design to force you to read it. The ads that pop up are paid to the company or organization not to me. They (company or organization)invite you to read there post with headlines then to have pop-ups is some what outrageous to me I feel like is was tricked into reading the post.

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