October 24, 2021

European privacy watchdog wants to end targeted advertising with tracking

The European privacy watchdog, the European Data Protection Supervisor, proposes a phase out and ban on online targeted advertising based on tracking. The EDPS also wants more restrictions on data collected about people.

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In an opinion message (PDF), Wojciech Wiewiorówski, director of the EDPS, proposes an addition to the digital services act in the European Parliament, targeting targeted advertising providers such as giants Google and Facebook. Wiewiorówski says transparency from ad providers is not enough, but targeting advertising based on tracking and personal data should be phased out, and eventually banned completely. He speaks of ‘pervasive tracking’.

Wiewiorówski states that there are various risks associated with online targeted advertising, in the field of privacy, but also in the field of security. He also states that the current ad-driven business models of companies such as Google and Facebook can be harmful to society, because they cause polarization and lead to misinformation and manipulation.

He says that while the current bill from the European Parliament has built in several mitigating measures against it, aimed at promoting transparency and accountability, they “don’t address the root cause” of collecting personal data for advertising.

The EPDS therefore proposes that MPs working on the law should do more to tackle specifically targeted advertising. Additional rules must be introduced. In addition to phasing out targeted advertising in the EU, there should also be restrictions on which categories of data can be collected and processed for targeting and which data can be collected for advertisements and shared with third parties that enable targeted advertising.

In December, the European Commission presented two legislative proposals aimed at online services such as Google and Facebook, the digital services act, or DSA, and the digital markets act, or the DMA. The Register explains that the DSA should clarify the responsibilities of online service providers, platforms and gatekeepers in terms of protecting people’s rights online and that the DMA should oversee governance structures that foster innovation and competition, thus those monopolies and prevent cartel formation. The European Parliament has yet to consider the legislative proposals.