Ad-Blocking Browser Brave Fires Back At News Industry

Last week, The New York Times, Washington Post, Gannett and 14 other members of the Newspaper Association of America threatened legal action against Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave -- a new browser that blocks ad-networks' ads and replaces them with "safer" ads.

"Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website," the publishers wrote.

The news companies argue that Brave's model violates a host of laws, including ones against copyright infringement. Their theory is that Brave will infringe copyright by reproducing the editorial content material -- articles, photos and videos -- without the original ads attached.

Despite the threats, the newspapers do not appear to have convinced Brave to change course. Instead, the company posted a public response accusing the NAA of failing to understand the Internet.

"The NAA's letter misconstrues how Web standards and browsers work," Brave writes. "Browsers do not just play back recorded pixels from the publishers’ sites. Browsers are rather the end-user agent that mediates and combines all the pieces of content, including third-party ads and first-party publisher news stories. ... Browsers are free to ignore, rearrange, mash-up and otherwise make use of any content from any source."

The software company goes on to accuse the news industry of violating readers' privacy by working with third-party ad networks, which track people as they surf the Web in order to serve them targeted ads.

Brave says its replacement ads also will be targeted based on users' browsing history, but that the raw data will not be shared with advertisers or publishers.

Here's how the company described its targeting system -- which sounds similar to one that Mozilla abandoned last year, just several months after its launch: "The Brave Browser maps browsing history to a fixed set of general 'interest' categories. A subset of those categories are combined with categories based on the context of the current page and possibly some 'decoy' categories. No other information is disclosed and no unique or persistent identifiers are used. The Brave Browser then selects appropriate ads to display from the list returned by the Brave Ad Network and either ignores the remainder or caches them for later use."

Brave also says it will share ad revenue with the publishers, but the news companies counter that any potential revenue-share won't "begin to compensate us for the loss of our ability to fund our work by displaying our own advertising."

It's not yet clear whether the newspapers will make good on their threats, or whether Brave will want to defend itself in court.

For now, though, the company seems more than willing to trade barbs with the news organizations.

"News industry leaders rightly decry the violation of privacy inherent in some NSA or FBI tactics, yet their own complicity in tracking individuals to even more invasive degrees is not addressed," the company writes. "We will fight alongside all citizens of the Internet who deserve and demand a better deal than they are getting from today's increasingly abusive approach to Web advertising."

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