An international coalition of consumer protection, digital and civil rights organizations demanded a ban on surveillance advertising.
The objection to targeted advertising is that it can be invasive and intrusive. Using collected data, marketers, advertisers, or governments can target specific groups of people for political purposes or other reasons.
EU: Further steps against surveillance advertising
The EU’s data protection supervisor has previously called for a ban on targeted advertising that relies on tracking. They have warned over the dangers of this type of online advertising and encouraged stricter rules to be established. Last fall the EU parliament also called for tighter controls on behavioral ads.
So, pressure is growing on lawmakers to take action against adtech that facilitates the manipulation of consumers.At the same time, businesses and consumers are increasingly placing their trust in decentralized platforms that respect people’s data. This trend is taking hold and is now being seen in popular brands such as Netflix, Twitter, and Facebook.
The growing attraction of these services shows how digital business models based on privacy, control, and free access are more popular than ever.
A letter for EU and US legislators
In a letter to European and US legislators, the international coalition of organizations and experts calls for action. An effort is underway to ban ads that rely on “systematic commercial surveillance of users”.
Facebook’s privacy problems are well-known. Thus the majority of consumers don’t want to be spied upon to be served with creepy ads. Facebook’s privacy problem is that the most consumers — and the coalition itself — don’t want to be spied upon.
Still, Mark Zuckerberg is talking about relevant ads. But relevance is not a factor in the eyes of consumers who experience ads as intrusive. As a result, these ads are a nuisance for the average person which is why they need to be removed.
The coalition points to a recent survey from the Norwegian Consumer Council. This found that fewer than one in ten consumers are positive about online surveillance-based advertising. The study also found that only a quarter of people think ads based on personal information are okay.
A full third of respondents to the survey were very negative about micro-targeted advertising. Moreover, almost half of those surveyed think that advertisers should not be able to target ads based on personal information.
Consumers feel powerless
The report highlights the fact that consumers are increasingly feeling powerless when they go online. Thus, six out of ten consumers surveyed feel that they have no choice but to disclose information.
That finding is particularly concerning for EU policymakers. Thus, the law should ensure citizens can control their personal data and against being strong-armed into handing it over.
However, most of the consumers think they don’t have a choice in the matter. But consumers in Europe are now protected against the use of their data for unwanted marketing purposes thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This went into effect in May 2018. However, many consumers still feel coerced into giving consent under various forms of Internet behavioral tracking.
EU lawmakers have acknowledged the problems with GDPR enforcement, and have called for emergency legislation in response. Also, the Commission has suggested some alternative enforcement structures in its Digital Services Act (DSA).
The failure of GDPR
Recently, the European Union (EU) has come under fire for the failure of GDPR and its enforcement. However, the EU has acknowledged these problems and is addressing them by introducing new legislation to deal with the issue.
“In the US, we urge legislators to enact comprehensive privacy legislation,” the coalition says.
So, the coalition supports a ban on surveillance-based advertising. This adtech industry practice has been used to gather vast amounts of data on research subjects. Then, it used it to target them with personalized ads. It also urges advertisers to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they don’t use this method to influence the political process.
Ads that use surveillance threaten democracy
The idea that surveillance-based ads are unhealthy for democracy is the core of this contention. So, consumers are concerned about the potential negative effects of surveillance-based advertising. Therefore, there are even questions about the overall health of democratic societies, which is put at risk by surveillance-based advertising.
“This harms consumers and businesses, and can undermine the cornerstones of democracy,” the coalition warns.
They say that advertising is an important source of revenue for content creators and publishers online. Still, this does not justify the massive commercial surveillance systems set up in attempts to “show the right ad to the right people”, they say.
Also, they emphasize that other forms of advertising technologies exist, which do not depend on spying on consumers. They mention that such alternative models can be implemented without significantly affecting revenue.
So, they encourage the EU and U.S. authorities “consider a ban of surveillance-based advertising.” This should be a part of the DSA act in the EU and of a federal law, in the U.S.
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