It is not good news for advertisers, search engines, digital agencies and affiliates. The European Data privacy regulators have published an Opinion (22nd June 2010) which states that behavioural advertising, which drives more than 23 billion dollar revenues on the Internet , must change its approach to collecting data on web users and cease delivering advertising to children.
What is clear is that Regulators and Politicians across Europe and internationally are aware of the growing public concern about online data privacy, whether justified or not. Authors of the Opinion state that what is at stake is that many consumers are not aware that their surfing behavior is being monitored and data are being stored for advertising purposes.
The EC press release states that although online behavioural advertising may bring advantages to online business and users alike, its implications for personal data protection and privacy are significant.
In a strong rebuttal, Europe’s media and advertising industry united to reject the Opinion, which the Word Federation of Advertisers, the IAB and EACA and others claim is out of step with the relationships that businesses and consumers are building online and flies in the face of the reality of the Internet. The authors of the Opinion say that while they do not question the economic benefits that behavioural advertising may bring for stakeholders’, such practice must not be carried out at the expense of individuals’ rights to privacy and data protection.
The 22 June Opinion also recommends a total ban on behavioural advertising directed at children.
“This opinion takes no account of the support we get from our consumers for interest-based advertising nor of the exchange in value they receive between effective advertising and access to high quality media content for free.” said Stephan Loerke, Managing Director, World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).
Why does this Opinion matter? It could of course impact on how national governments interpret the ePrivacy Directive and implement national law making opt in a requirement. In practical terms, in the worse case scenario for marketers and consumers, such a requirement would mean that Internet users would have to confirm every single cookie placed on their PCs!