Home  › Marketing › Strategies

EU Proposal Could Cripple Common Web Ad Practices

  |  November 6, 2009   |  Comments

A proposed revision to EU privacy law could have a crippling effect on the online advertising industry.

clickz_ukandeu.gifA revision to EU privacy law could have a crippling effect on the online advertising industry, effectively requiring publishers to gain users' consent before placing cookies on their machines for common online ad practices such as behavioral targeting, retargeting, and audience segmentation.

A proposed amendment to an EU privacy directive states that national governments should "ensure that the storing of information, or the gaining of access to information already stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his/her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive information."

The EU has repeatedly expressed concerns about the collection of user data for use in online advertising, and often stated that if the industry fails to regulate itself appropriately, it would not be afraid to intervene. Via this revision, it appears to be proposing exactly that.

The wider Telecoms Reform Package -- of which the amendment is part -- must be approved or rejected by the European Parliament and Council by the end of December, according to Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer and legal director at law firm Pinsent Masons who specializes in areas including data security and online marketing. Robertson said the vote is likely to take place by the end of November, and that he would be "surprised" if the package was not approved.

If approved, the amendment would have serious implications for the online advertising industry, much of which relies on the placing of cookies on users' machines to enhance the relevance of online ads. Companies that use cookies for behavioral ad targeting such as Google, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, and numerous ad networks, would be forced to gain users' consent before collecting any data on user interactions. Cookies without direct user consent would only be allowed when they are "strictly necessary" to provide a service "explicitly requested" by the user, such as storing shopping cart information on e-commerce sites, for example.

It's currently unclear exactly how local governments might choose to implement the directive through local law, but Robertson suggested it will be "extremely difficult to interpret it in a way that allows the delivery of cookies without user consent," and described the possibility as "a frightening state of affairs" for the advertising industry. "It seems remarkable that we would have a law that will make Web sites so difficult to use, but that's exactly what the directive states. I wonder if organizations would risk ignoring the law in the hope that it won't be enforced," he said.

Some, including Robertson, suggest the IAB should be doing more to stave off formal regulation of this manner. The advertising trade body's U.K. arm released a set of "good practice principles" earlier this year regarding the collection of user data for ad targeting. Those principles highlight the necessity for companies to allow users to opt-out of being tracked around the Web, but do not enforce the need for user consent.

Robertson said the IAB needs to do more to satisfy regulators, and that the organization is, in effect, under-regulating.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information, society and media, made the EU's stance very clear while speaking at a lunch debate on the future of the Internet in Brussels last month. "European privacy rules are crystal clear: A person's information can only be used with their prior consent. Transparency and choice are key words in this debate.... I will not shy away from taking action where an EU country falls short of this duty," she said. During the talk she also highlighted the Commission's privacy-related action against the U.K., launched in April as a result of targeting technology trials conducted by Phorm and British Telecom.

Tags:

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Marshall

Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011. 

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...
    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...