If you have been worried or disturbed by how companies use your data to target you for advertising, the European Parliament has taken the initial steps to protect you.
The Parliament has approved the first draft of a bill that will limit how tech companies can target you with ads. 530 voted in support, while 78 were against. 80 votes were absent.
The new act is known as the Digital Services Act, DSA, and was introduced in 2020. When implemented, DSA will, in part, stop online companies that rely on user data to do targeted advertising from using sensitive information like race, sexual orientation, and religion. Also, companies cannot use data about minors to target them with ads.
The Act further stipulates that victims of online platforms that fail to do their due diligence on user data should be able to seek redress in the form of compensation.
DCA also bans the use of dark patterns or the practice of tricking users to agree to share their data. The penalty for this is severe, with applicable fines up to six percent of its global revenue.
It also mandates the companies to provide an easy means of opting out of being tracked. DCA “provides for more transparent and informed choice for the recipients of digital services, including information on how their data will be monetized. Refusing consent shall be no more difficult or time-consuming to the recipient than giving consent. If their consent is refused or withdrawn, recipients shall be given other options to access the online platform, including ‘options based on tracking-free advertising.’”
In addition, these platforms will now be more indebted to remove illegal content or products. Hosting services providers “should act on receipt of such a notice without undue delay, taking into account the type of illegal content that is being notified and the urgency of taking action. MEPs also included stronger safeguards to ensure notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression.”
Companies that fall under the “very large online platforms,” VLOPs, are also obligated to take seriously preventing the spread of misinformation because of “the particular risks they pose regarding the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content. The DSA would help to tackle harmful content (which might not be illegal) and the spread of disinformation by including provisions on mandatory risk assessments, risk mitigation measures, independent audits, and the transparency of so-called “recommender systems” (algorithms that determine what users see).”
Companies that will be most affected include Google, Amazon, Meta, etc. However, micro and small enterprises are exempted from some of DSA’s obligations.
After the vote, Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK), who is leading the Parliament’s negotiating team, said: “Today’s vote shows MEPs and EU citizens want an ambitious digital regulation fit for the future. Much has changed in the 20 years since we adopted the e-commerce directive. Online platforms have become increasingly important in our daily life, bringing new opportunities, but also new risks. It is our duty to make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online. We need to ensure that we put in place digital rules to the benefit of consumers and citizens. Now we can enter into negotiations with the Council, and I believe we will be able to deliver on these issues”.
The coast, however, is not clear yet for DSA as negotiation will begin at the end of January.
In the US, the Democrats have also introduced a bill that regulates targeted advertising.