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Transparency is not enough: EDPS on targeted advertising

Transparency is not enough: EDPS on targeted advertising

The EDPS says “transparency is not enough” and calls for a prohibition on targeted advertising based on pervasive tracking. 


In a statement penned by the European Data Protection Supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, he described the current state of cyberspace as figurative “walled gardens”, lamenting that the internet has become “a space of advertising-driven business models and continuous surveillance”. Wiewiórowski believes in a form of advertising which does not depend on the tracking of user interaction with content. He takes the stance that “transparency is essential but it is not enough,” and suggests regulatory incentives and restrictions to curb user tracking and the collection of certain types of data for targeted advertising. 


The EDPS suggests regulatory incentives in favour of less intrusive forms of advertising. 


Wiewiórowski, in a recent statement, referred to the current business model as an “attention economy”, denouncing the political and ideological polarisation, disinformation and manipulation which seem to have come about as a result of its general nature. Data protection advocates have been concerned about targeted advertising for many years for this reason. Many of the associated risks have been recognised by authorities, as reflected in the Proposal for Digital Services Act. He asserts that less intrusive forms of advertising that do not depend on the user interaction with content, should be incentivised in order to encourage businesses to adopt alternative models, which already currently exist.


According to the EDPS, in addition to transparency, perhaps we need further restrictions on the categories of personal data which can be processed for targeted advertising. 


According to the EDPS, “We will need more than increased transparency.” In a recent statement by the EDPS, a suggestion of further restrictions on the categories of personal data which can be processed for the purposes of targeted advertising was one of the suggestions to tackle the risks associated with online advertising. He says that it is time to set clear limits to online targeted advertising, as the current state of the internet is the product of human and political choices, and not set in stone. In his statement, the EDPS says “Special categories of data or other data that can be used to exploit vulnerabilities should not be used to target ads.” He suggests preventing the use of data of vulnerable populations (for example children), claiming that this practice has the ability to affect entire generations in unprecedented ways. While it is a necessary part of the equation, the EDPS man obtains that just transparency is not enough, and that more should be done to tackle the ills of targeted advertising. 

Does your company have all of the mandated safeguards in place to ensure the safety of the personal data you collect or process? Aphaia can help. Aphaia also provides both GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 consultancy services, including data protection impact assessments, and Data Protection Officer outsourcing. We can help your company get on track towards full compliance. Contact us today.

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