Privacy concerns about Personalized Advertisements

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens or AP), in collaboration with the privacy watchdogs of Norway and Germany, is set to launch a European procedure addressing privacy concerns related to personalized advertisements. The regulators aim to present a clear stance, in conjunction with their EU counterparts, on how online platforms obtain user consent for displaying personalized ads.

 

Some online platforms assert that users can only continue to use their services for free if they agree to the utilization of their personal data for targeted advertising. For the AP, it is crucial that privacy protection is not exclusive to those who can afford it. Privacy is deemed a fundamental right that should be equally safeguarded for everyone.

EDPB’s Timely Decision

Within 8 weeks, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), which includes European privacy watchdogs such as the AP, will issue a position on this matter.

 

Aleid Wolfsen, Chair of the AP, emphasizes the significance of maintaining control over personal data, especially in the era of extensive online tracking. He questions whether privacy is becoming a luxury reserved for the affluent and expects the EDPB’s forthcoming position to significantly impact how tech companies handle user privacy.

 

‘Pay or Okay’ Model

Online platforms are only allowed to display personalized ads with user consent, as per previous European rulings. However, some platforms employ the ‘pay or okay’ model, where users must pay a monthly fee if they do not agree to the use of their personal data for targeted ads.

 

The privacy authorities, working collectively within the EDPB, aim to swiftly determine whether the ‘pay or okay’ model complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

 

Free Consent

The GDPR mandates that companies processing personal data must have a legal basis, such as consent. Consent should be freely given without coercion, and individuals should have the option to refuse the processing of their personal data without facing adverse consequences.

 

The ‘pay or okay’ policy poses challenges, particularly concerning major online platforms with a large user base. Users might feel dependent on these platforms due to social connections or the presence of essential information and popular content.

 

Crucial questions include whether consent for data processing is given under duress, whether the pricing is fair, and whether refusal results in adverse consequences, especially for individuals with lower incomes. The lack of a uniform European approach among national regulators currently complicates the matter.