A number of MEPs have launched a petition to push the European Commission to act against personalised advertising. Last year, Parliament asked the Commission to look at a total ban on it. However, according to the Commission, this goes too far, which prefers other measures to protect privacy. A ban would then not be necessary.
It sometimes leads to irritation: a search for a garden chair and you are then flattened with ads for garden furniture. Or if you click on a movie of a political party, then multiple ads from the same party will pass by.
Companies like Facebook and Google follow our online movements accurately. They collect this data in order for those advertisers to place targeted personalised ads.
This can be useful, because it often allows people to see ads of stuff they need. Advertisers are also more likely to buy a product through this advertisement. But, according to MEPs, privacy is in jeopardy.
Biggest and most powerful
Paul Tang, MEP for the PvdA and co-initiator of the petition, wants large tech companies to be tackled quickly. These companies are fully committed to personalised advertising, which means that other websites have seen their advertising revenue decrease.
“ These kinds of tech companies are the largest and most powerful companies in the world. Of every 100 euros spent on advertising, they remove about 50 to 70, leaving news publishers behind”
Nothing wrong with it
But Marthe Verkoucke works as an online marketer every day with personalized ads and thinks theres nothing wrong with it. Shes showing how that works.
“ If you want to sell cat food, you can type the word cat here in a search bar. You will then get options that you can start selecting as interests. For example, if you want to target people who love cats (catlovers), you can literally select it here.” People who have recently liked a cat picture will then see such an advertisement on Facebook. Chances are that they have a cat themselves.
She puts the responsibility to the user. “In the end, you always decide whether to go into an advertisement.”
Moreover, in her opinion, a ban is of little benefit. “The number of ads will not be less, but it just becomes less specific. You might see an advertisement of cat food when you dont have a cat at all. What do you care about that?”
Not necessarily more profitable
Since the beginning of 2020, the STER has stopped using personalised advertisements. According to the foundation behind the advertising of the Dutch public service broadcaster, this decision did not lead to a decrease in revenue. “Last year we turned a lot more revenue and, oddly enough, advertisers have not paid anymore,” says Frank Volmer, CEO of the STER.
According to him, thats because personalised ads have a high cost. It is therefore much cheaper for the STER not to use personalised advertisements. Today, the STER looks at the place of the advertisement. “For example, we place travel ads around travel programs. We dont need any personal data at all,” says Volmer.
However, the question is whether there will actually be a ban on personalised advertising. Both the European Commission and the Member States must agree to this. The question is whether they want to, and if they do, it will be a long time before such a ban is completed.