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European Regulator Calls for ‘Additional Measures’ Against Ad Targeting

David Paul

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targeted advertising data

The EDPS has suggested a complete ban on targeted advertising be included in a major reform to digital services rules.

European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Wojciech Wiewiórowski has called for a ban on targeted advertising to better protect individuals.

In a released statement, Wiewiórowski suggested the move as part of the largest reform to digital services in around two decades.

The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act seek to provide a safe and transparent online environment, and the EDPS believes there should be “additional measures” to protect individuals online.

New and revised rules will be developed to increase and harmonise the responsibilities of online platforms and service providers and to bolster the oversight over the content policies of platforms.

Wiewiórowski said he “welcomes” the European Commission’s proposal that seeks to “promote fair and open digital markets” and the “fair processing of personal data” by regulating large online platforms acting as gatekeepers.

However, the EDPS says that legislators should consider including a ban on online targeted advertising that relies on “pervasive tracking” and “restrict the categories of data that can be processed for such advertising methods”.

Commenting, Wiewiórowski said: “We note that the Proposal does not impose a general monitoring obligation, it confirms reasonable liability exemptions and supplements them with a pan-European system of notice and action rules, so far missing.”

He continued: “Competition, consumer protection and data protection law are three inextricably linked policy areas in the context of the online platform economy. Therefore, the relationship between these three areas should be one of complementarity, not friction.”

A complete ban would be a major blow to internet giants like Google and Facebook who rely heavily on targeted advertising for revenue.

Tech giants are seen to be holding too much power over user data and wielding tools such as targeted advertising for their own means with impunity.

In July 2020, Google was accused by Australia of using data permission collected in a misleading way to target online users in the country.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says that the company mislead Australian consumers about the use of their personal information, including internet activity.

In February 2018, Facebook was threatened with “massive fines” if it did not cease the tracking of Belgian users’ personal data and browsing habits.

A Belgian court said the firm’s process of using third-party sites to track users was a breach of privacy law, adding that it may not be fully disclosing the extent of its tracking of Belgian citizens.

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It was discovered in January this year that Google and Facebook were alleged to have made a deal to limit competition in advertising, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.

The agreement involved Google providing Facebook with favourable terms when bidding for advertising. In return, Facebook would back Google’s Open Bidding approach to selling adverts.

In his comments, Wiewiórowski highlighted the importance of “fostering competitive digital markets” to provide users with a larger choice of online platforms and services.

“Giving users better control over their personal data can reinforce contestability in digital markets. Increased interoperability can help to address user lock-in and ultimately create opportunities for services to offer better data protection,” he said.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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