The internet is full of useful information, time-wasting social networks, and cat videos. Alongside all of that are the ads, many of which look a lot less like ads these days. As ad blockers have become increasingly popular, websites have made the ads more integral to the content. Computer scientist Arvind Narayanan, along with his colleagues from Princeton and Stanford have developed a new proof-of-concept ad blocker that spots ads more like a human. They call it the “Perceptual Ad Blocker.”It was Facebook’s changes to ads, making them look like other posts, that spurred Narayanan and his team to action. While the ads are now part of the stream to evade ad blockers, Facebook is required to include certain elements for its human users, like privacy controls and text that makes it clear you’re looking at an ad. That’s too subtle for your average ad blocker, which looks at the code in search of ads.When you look at a webpage, you can probably pick out things that are ads even if they’re styled to look like the rest of the content on the page. You might notice the tiny “sponsored” text some sites use, or the logo of a sponsored link aggregator. For example, many of Facebook’s ads are designed to look and behave just like a regular post from your friends. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a traditional ad blocker to spot. Perceptual Ad Blocker looks for the same things you would, and uses them to identify ads.
New ‘Perceptual Ad Blocker’ may be impossible for websites to defeat