Data ownership question needs solving too

Marketers across Europe are keeping a close eye on the data protection debate developing in Brussels. Last week, the UK joined with the US, Germany and Sweden to voice concerns over proposed new privacy rules put forward by the European Union.

jonny bacon

The data shake-up, which includes implementing a uniform set of privacy standards across all 27 EU countries, could have huge consequences for media owners and advertisers operating on the continent. The UK was one of several governments to suggest the new rules would be overly prescriptive and costly for businesses in their current form.

In light of such opposition, it could take years to resolve the data protection issue – which is just as well when fundamental rules around data ownership and data sharing are themselves up for debate.

Last week ISBA, the British advertising trade body, stated its intention to take on media owners over their failure to share the increasingly valuable stream of data gleaned from online advertising campaigns. ISBA’s director of media and advertising Bob Wootton complained about the supposedly widespread practice of “data gatekeeping” and warned “there is going to be a lot of push-back on this issue from us”.

Speaking at a Westminster Media Forum event, Wootton said: “If an advertiser spends money with a digital media owner, they should share with the advertiser the data that pertains to those adverts. The problem is that we’re now faced with a complex layer cake in which it’s not clear who owns the data.”

ISBA’s complaint highlights the scale of the challenge facing EU data regulators. There’s little doubt that privacy measures need tightening and consumers need protecting as data sources expand with new technology. But when media owners and advertisers can’t even agree on who owns and is therefore responsible for particular data strands, that task becomes nigh-on impossible.

Rather than devising a set of overly prescriptive rules, the EU would be better served if it tackled the ‘big data’ challenge more holistically. This could involve establishing a new framework that sets out different bodies’ rights, as well as their responsibilities, when it comes to using people’s data. As more countries lobby for changes to the existing EU proposals, regulators might begin to see the need for this ‘bigger picture’ approach.

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