European Regulator Calls For Ad Targeting Ban

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The EU’s top privacy regulator has recommended a complete ban on targeted advertising as part of a crackdown on internet giants like Google and Facebook

The recommendation from the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Wojciech Wiewiórowski, goes significantly further than the European Commission, which in December proposed simply increasing the transparency of political ads, as well as restrictions on micro-targeting and psychological profiling.

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

The watchdog is also calling for measures to make sure that when attempting to remove illegal or harmful content from their platforms, companies should avoid – ‘insofar as is possible’ – the processing of personal data. And, it adds, “profiling for purposes of content moderation should be prohibited unless the provider can demonstrate that such measures are strictly necessary.”

The EDPS proposes that EU nations ahould each appoint a digital services coordinator to monitor platforms with over 45 million users and assess whether they’re complying with the rules. These platforms will be expected to appoint compliance officers and to carry out independent audits.

Compliance will be overseen by the European Board for Digital Services, an independent advisory group consisting of the new national digital services coordinators, and chaired by the European Commission. Penalties for violating the rules look set to include fines of up to six per cent of a company’s turnover. Meanwhile, ongoing infringements can lead to penalties of up to five per cent of turnover.

The recommendations relate to the planned Digital Services Act (DSA), currently being negotiated alongside the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Both will be reviewed by both the European Parliament and by member states, and are expected to come into force some time in the next two years. Together, they represent the biggest change to European digital legislation for twenty years.

With the new recommendations, says Wiewiórowski, users will gain more protection in the areas of content moderation, online targeted advertising and recommender systems used by online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces.

And, he adds, “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.”

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