On Tuesday, one of the Senate’s fiercest technology critics, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), asked regulators to request that they investigate the ad blocking industry for anti-competitive behavior.
For years, some of the biggest technology firms have paid ad blocking companies like Eyeo, owner of Adblock Plus, to avoid software restrictions and show their ads on devices. In 2015, a report of the Financial times It showed that companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google were paying ad blockers so they could be added to a white list to avoid software filters.
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Wyden described this behavior and asked President Joseph Simons to open an investigation into the entire ad blocking industry in response. Wyden argued that any company that accepts payment to be whitelisted should be “much more transparent” about the process with its users.
In the case of Adblock Plus, the company announced in 2016 that it would accept some ads that were not “intrusive or annoying.” The company includes these acceptable ads on the whitelist and allows them to run on devices, but Wyden argues that this behavior is “Anti-Competitive.
The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide have downloaded and installed software tools that aim to block online ads,” Wyden wrote in his letter. “In turn, the largest advertising companies … have silently paid millions of dollars to some of the largest ad blocking software companies to continue tracking and targeting consumers with ads.”
In recent years, the FTC has delegated more resources to investigate competition problems in the technological space. Last February, the commission launched a working group of at least 17 lawyers who would focus on the technological space in light of the new antitrust questions surrounding the market power of large technology companies such as Google and Facebook.