Online advertisers face stricter rules on how they track people across the web and target advertising as the EU looks to reinforce online privacy.
The EU’s ePrivacy proposals would require all web browsers to ask users if they want to opt-in to tracking. Currently browsers are automatically set to allow tracking with users having to opt out.
There will also be “simpler rules” on cookies, so internet users do not have to click on a banner every time they visit a website as is currently the case.
However, the concern is that when given the option, most users would opt out, making it much more difficult to target advertising. The IAB claims the law could “effectively put the future of the web as we know it in danger” and raises concerns that it could “seriously disrupt” people’s browsing experience.
“Digital advertising driven by data is the number one funding model for the internet,” says the IAB UK’s head of policy and regulatory affairs Yves Schwarzbart.
“People’s concerns around data and privacy are real and of great importance to everyone involved in digital advertising. They have to be weighed against the £10bn worth of income digital advertising generates for publishers and content creators in the UK alone.”
The new rules do not go as far as many had feared. The EU has pulled back from plans that would have meant all browsers were automatically set not to track, with users having to actively change the settings, something the ad industry believes few would have done
Yet the IAB says the EU, as it negotiates the new legislation, “must ensure advertising can continue to power the internet”.
There was also good news for the B2B marketing sector. A prior version of the legislation suggested they would have to get opt-in before sending direct mail via electronic channels. Yet it has moved away from this for B2B email marketing (although not for consumer).
There is less good news for companies such as WhatsApp or Skype, however. Under the new rules they will be held to the same standards as traditional telecoms firms, meaning they must guarantee confidentiality whether people are talking to other users, brands or bots. Some, such as WhatsApp, already offer encrypted communications but others do not.
Any company that breaches the new rules faces fines of €20m or 4% of global turnover, whichever is higher.
The proposals require approval from the European Parliament and member states before becoming law and are subject to negotiations and rewrites. Once voted through they will still apply to the UK, despite Brexit.
Blocking the ad blockers
The proposed legislation also clears up whether publishers can track people using ad blockers. Privacy activists had argued the practice was illegal, but the EU now says that is not the case.
The move means publishers such as The Telegraph and City AM that had been tracking people using ad blockers and in some cases banning those who refused to see advertising can continue.
And ISBA has welcomed the move, saying banning the tracking of ad blockers would have “put the internet funding model under threat” but says the proposed reforms are “broadly advertiser friendly”.
“The proposed regulation will allow users to make informed decisions on whether they want to opt in for higher or lower levels of privacy. It will allow the users to make an informed choice. Responsible advertisers’ value transparency so do users, this will enhance the trust between advertisers and internet users.”