Top EU Privacy Regulator Calls for Total Ban on Targeted Ads

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the European Union’s top privacy regulator, called for a complete ban on targeted advertising. That’s a harsher recommendation than that of the European Commission, which simply suggested increased transparency on political ads and limits to micro-targeting and psychological profiling. Wiewiorówski’s proposal was in response to a request for EU lawmaker consultation on the Commission’s Digital Services Act (DSA) introduced in December.

Forbes reports that the EDPS further called 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 that] profiling for purposes of content moderation should be prohibited unless the provider can demonstrate that such measures are strictly necessary.”

Wiewiórowski also proposed that, “EU nations should each appoint a digital services coordinator to monitor platforms with over 45 million users and assess whether they’re complying with the rules.”

The European Board for Digital Services, an independent advisory group chaired by the European Commission, will oversee compliance via officers who conduct independent audits. Penalties for violations will likely “include fines of up to six percent of a company’s turnover … [with] ongoing infringements [leading] to penalties of up to five percent of turnover.”

The European Parliament and member states will review both the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, which are expected to come into force “sometime in the next two years.” Wiewiórowski noted 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.”

TechCrunch reports that before the laws can be approved, they will go through “debate and negotiations in the European Parliament and Council … [which] means battle lines are being drawn to try to influence the final shape of the biggest overhaul to pan-EU digital rules for decades.”

Big Tech lobbyists will push against Wiewiórowski’s call for a total ban on targeted advertising, and the Commission is also concerned about recommendation systems and content moderation as representing increased “risks not only for the rights of individuals, but for society as a whole.”

The EDPS proposes “a phase-out leading to a prohibition of targeted advertising on the basis of pervasive tracking, as well as restrictions in relation to the categories of data that can be processed for targeting purposes and the categories of data that may be disclosed to advertisers or third parties to enable or facilitate targeted advertising.”

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who decried the ad-tech “data complex,” urged the EU to “double down on enforcement of its flagship General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”